School Board Not Required to Arbitrate Grievances Over Do Not Hire Policy

By December 10, 2014 News No Comments

In a recent case, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the IELRB’s finding that a school board was required to arbitrate grievances filed by the teachers’ union over a policy of placing a “Do Not Hire” indication in the personnel files of probationary teachers who had received two non-renewals or an unsatisfactory performance rating.

In the case of Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Illinois Educational Labor Board, the union filed grievances over the policy and demanded arbitration of the board’s decision in at least four of the grievances. The board refused to arbitrate, and the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the board, alleging a violation of section 14(a)(1) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, which prohibits the board from “[i]nterfering, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed under” the Act.

In assessing the union’s charge, the IELRB concluded that the language of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement allowed for arbitration as long as a grievance involved a “work situation.” Therefore, the IELRB found that the board had a duty to arbitrate the grievances and, by refusing to proceed to arbitration, the board committed an unfair labor practice.

On appeal, the court emphasized that both the CBA and Illinois School Code excuse school boards from bargaining over matters of “inherent managerial policy.” The court determined the subject of the grievances clearly related to the board’s ability to make hiring decisions, which was a matter of managerial policy. Accordingly, although the court agreed that the CBA language was broad, the CBA’s definition of grievance did not require the board to arbitrate matters that are excluded from the bargaining process, including its managerial policy of selecting employees.

In addition, the grievances sought to force the board to re-hire probationary teachers it determined were not qualified to teach, which conflicted with board’s statutory authority to set hiring policies and dismiss unqualified teachers. Therefore, it was within the board’s authority to institute the policy, and the issue was not subject to grievance. Accordingly, the court reversed IELRB’s finding that the board committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to arbitrate.

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