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Ohio Appellate Court Rules That It Does Not Have Jurisdiction To Hear Breach Of Contract Case Based Upon A Collective Bargaining Agreement

In Fairland Assn. of Classroom Teachers v. Fairland Local Bd. of Edn., 2017-Ohio-1098, an Ohio appellate court found that the State Employee Relations Board (“SERB”) has exclusive jurisdiction over a breach of contract claim based solely upon an employee’s collectively bargained rights under a master agreement.

In Fairland, a union and teacher filed a lawsuit alleging that the school board breached the collective bargaining agreement when it attempted to non-renew the teacher’s supplemental contract to serve as athletic director. Specifically, the treasurer hand delivered a notice non-renewing the teacher’s supplemental contract on May 5th. The teacher filed a grievance claiming that the school board violated a provision of the collective bargaining agreement which specified that the school board must notify bargaining unit members of its intent to non-renew supplemental contracts prior to April 30th. Since the collective bargaining agreement did not provide for final and binding arbitration, the teacher filed suit following the school board’s denial of his grievance.

The school board sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the lawsuit did not assert any claims that were independent of the collective bargaining agreement and that SERB has exclusive jurisdiction over claims that arise from, or are dependent upon, collective bargaining rights. The Ohio appellate court agreed, finding that “the dispositive issue [is] whether the [* * *] claims arise from or are dependent upon the R.C. Chapter 4117 collective-bargaining rights” such that SERB has exclusive jurisdiction. Fairland at ¶ 37. The Ohio appellate court determined that the teacher’s claims involved supplemental contracts, procedures for non-renewal, and procedures for the grievance process – all of which “were collectively bargained for and made part of the agreement.” Fairland at ¶ 38.

It is unlikely that this case will have far ranging implications for most school officials as many collective bargaining agreements provide for final and binding arbitration (resolving the need to resort to legal action). However, for those districts that do not have collective bargaining agreements that provide for binding arbitration, this case supports the argument that SERB is the exclusive forum for disputes that arise under those agreements.

To read this case, please click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and Patrick Vrobel

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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