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Ohio Court Vacates Arbitration Award As Beyond Scope of Arbitration

In Pike-Delta-York Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. Pike-Delta-York Edn. Assn., 2017-Ohio-1476, an Ohio appellate court found that an arbitrator exceeded his power and authority by awarding the grievant a supplemental contract to serve as the head softball coach for the 2015-2016 school year because the 2015-2016 school year was not the subject of her grievance.

The grievant was a teacher who also served as “the varsity softball head coach for 15 years, under a yearly supplemental contract.” Pike-Delta-York at ¶ 3. The grievant “reapplied to be the head softball coach for the 2012-2013 school year.”  Pike-Delta-York at ¶ 4. Even though “the athletic director and the superintendent recommended” the grievant for the position, the [school board] hired another candidate “for the 2012-2013 school year.” Pike-Delta-York at ¶ 4.

The grievant filed an arbitration demand alleging that the school board violated the collective bargaining agreement by denying her the supplemental softball coaching contract for the 2012-2013 school year. The arbitrator sustained the grievance but rejected the union’s request for reinstatement for the 2014-2015 school year as the grievance only addressed the 2012-2013 school year.

Following the arbitrator’s decision, the grievant reapplied for the head softball coaching position for the 2014-2015 school year, and the school board did not even interview her. This produced a second arbitration where the arbitrator again ruled in favor of the grievant.

In the second arbitration, the arbitrator awarded the grievant the head coaching position for the 2015-2016 school year. The school board then appealed the arbitrator’s ruling noting that the grievance concerned the 2014-2015 school year not the 2015-2016 school year.

The Ohio appellate court agreed and held that “[s]ince the 2015-2016 school year was not the subject of the grievance, the arbitrator had no authority to determine this issue. The arbitrator further exceeded his power and authority by awarding Grievant the head coaching position for the 2015-2016 school year, as this was not an issue before the arbitrator.”  Pike-Delta-York at ¶ 4.

This case represents a rare victory for school boards seeking to reverse an arbitration award as courts strongly favor binding arbitration. For proof of the strong judicial deference extended to arbitration awards, please see both our March 13, 2017 blog here and March 22, 2017 blog here. For public officials seeking that rare relief from an arbitration award, this case demonstrates that they should pay close attention to the scope of grievance itself. As this case indicates, an arbitration award that exceeds the scope of the initial grievance – which it did here – might be more susceptible to judicial reversal.

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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