State Appeals Court Upholds SEIU 509's Right to Arbitrate Discrimination Grievance For Teachers

April 04, 2018

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals has become the second court to affirm an arbitration award supporting SEIU Local 509's arbitration victory in favor of a probationary teacher. Attorney Patrick Bryant represented Local 509 and its bargaining unit at the Collaborative for Educational Services throughout this process.

In this case, Local 509 alleged that certain negative evaluations and separation of a CES teacher, following a history of favorable evaluations, were motivated at least in part by the teacher's concerted, protected activity, which included filing grievances. The CES bargaining unit represents special education teachers for students in institutional settings.

Local 509 and CES disputed whether the contract allowed probationary teachers to grieve terminations based upon union activity. The contract negotiated by Local 509 clearly prohibits discrimination or retaliation against any employee on the basis of, among other actions or characteristics, union activity. (State law also prohibits such discrimination). The contract also states that discipline of non-probationary teachers is subject to just cause, whereas discipline or discharge of probationary teachers are not. The Union filed a grievance alleging a violation of the discrimination provision, not the just cause provision.

The parties asked a neutral arbitrator to determine whether the Union could proceed to a hearing on the merits of its discrimination grievance. She agreed that the Union could. CES appealed to court, alleging that the arbitrator's decision exceeded her authority. The Superior Court rejected this appeal. Refusing to take no for an answer, CES appealed again to the Appeals Court.

The Appeals Court again rejected this argument and relegated its decision to an unpublished opinion, which is attached.

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