School District May Refuse To Process Teacher Discipline Grievances

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) has denied and dismissed a Detroit Federation of Teachers’ claim that a school district’s refusal to process grievances concerning teacher discipline/discharge constitutes an unfair labor practice. Stated otherwise, the MERC has confirmed the right of a public school district to refuse to process teacher discipline grievances. Detroit Public Schools, Case No. C15 C-045.

After receiving four grievances challenging the discipline of four teachers, the Detroit Public Schools advised the teachers’ union that it would not process the grievances because such pertained to a prohibited subject of bargaining and thus no related contracted provision(s) were valid or enforceable via the contract’s grievance procedure. In response, the teachers’ union filed an unfair labor practice against the school district, asserting that the refusal to process the discipline grievances constituted a breach of the duty to bargain in good faith.

In rejecting the union unfair labor practice charge, the MERC stated that a school district has no duty to bargain regarding a prohibited subject of bargaining, including the processing of any grievance by which a union seeks to enforce language within a collective bargaining agreement pertaining to a prohibited subject.

This decision is consistent with, and further articulates, the MERC’s prior ruling within Pontiac School District, 28 MPER 34 (2014) that a teacher union attempt to arbitrate a contractual grievance pertaining to a prohibited subject of bargaining constitutes a breach of the union’s duty to bargain in good faith, and thus an unfair labor practice.

Additional Insights...

Again, Prohibited Means Prohibited

The Court of Appeals, in Calhoun Intermediate Education Association MEA/NEA v Calhoun Intermediate School District, Case No. 323873 (January 7, 2016) has again affirmed that prohibited subjects of bargaining are really prohibited.

Calhoun arose from set of facts familiar to all Michigan school districts.  The district clearly informed the union it refused to bargain about prohibited subjects.  Regardless, the union kept making proposals to include prohibited subjects in the collective bargaining agreement, in the form of an appendix. he district filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging the union was not bargaining in good faith and the administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) agreed. READ MORE.

Teacher Immune from Liability after Restraining Student Involved in Fight

On December 10, 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished, per curiam opinion in Murillo v. Haff, No. 323027 (Mich. Ct. App. 2015).  A student at the district alternative school went to the high school to fight another student.  Defendant, a high school teacher, was notified of the fight and went to break it up.  The teacher had to physically restrain the student not only once, but a second time after the student continued to attack the other student.  The student resisted the teacher’s restraint and as a result, the student broke her arm.  The student sued the teacher claiming negligence and assault and battery.  The teacher argued he was immune from liability.  The trial court granted his motion for summary disposition.  The student appealed. READ MORE.