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Attention Social Workers – No Collective Bargaining for You!

In Laborers’ Internatl. Union of N. Am., Local 860 v. Cuyahoga Cty., 2017-Ohio-8552, an Ohio appellate court agreed with an order from the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (“SERB”) which found that a group of social workers were “supervisors” and not “public employees” subject to Ohio’s collective bargaining laws. Accordingly, the social workers could not hold a representation election and form a collective bargaining unit.

Ohio’s collective bargaining laws “provide[] that ‘public employees’ have the right to participate in any employee organization of their own choosing, to have a labor organization represent them, to bargain collectively, to present grievances, and to engage in other activities typically associated with collective bargaining.” Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 13.

“A ‘public employee’ [* * *] is generally defined as ‘any person holding a position by appointment or employment in the service of a public employer.’”  Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 13 (citing R.C. 4117.01(C)). “A ‘supervisor’ is specifically excluded from being a ‘public employee’ as that term is used” under Ohio’s collective bargaining laws. Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 13.

“SERB considers an employee to be a ‘supervisor’ if the record contains substantial evidence that the employee has the authority to perform one or more of the functions listed in [the collective bargaining statute], actually exercises that authority, and uses independent judgment in doing so.” Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 15. For the purpose of determining supervisory status, “SERB defines independent judgment to be the ‘opportunity to make a clear choice between two or more significant alternative courses of action without plenary review or approval.’” Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 15 (citing In re Ohio Atty. Gen., SERB No. 2000-002, at 18 (Mar. 3, 2000)).

The appellate court found that “[t]he evidence presented at the SERB hearing supported SERB’s finding that Social Service Supervisors are expected to, and actually do, exercise independent judgment as it relates to the assignment of cases to social workers.” Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 18. Accordingly, the Ohio appellate court upheld “SERB’s order dismissing the Union’s petition for a representation election.” Laborers’ Internatl. Union at ¶ 22.

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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