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COA orders court to determine whether driver fired for just cause

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a St. Joseph Circuit judge erred by granting summary judgment in favor of a school corporation instead of making an independent determination of whether a school bus driver was discharged for just cause.

Lula L. Jenkins was fired from her job as a bus driver for South Bend Community School Corp. after it was determined she violated two work rules by allowing a child to ride her bus past the child’s destination and into the school corporation’s maintenance facility. She and the union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62, and AFL-CIO Local 686, filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement. Article 4 of the CBA sets forth the four-step grievance procedure and defines what is a grievance. Article 4 also provides that “[t]he grievance and arbitration provisions of this article are an exclusive remedy. With respect to every arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator shall be advisory to the Superintendent and not binding on either party.”

A neutral arbitrator determined that just cause didn’t exist to support Jenkins’ discharge and issued an order that she be reinstated with back pay, benefits and seniority. The school corporation declined, saying the order is merely advisory based on Article 4. Jenkins and the union then sought a de novo judicial review of whether the CBA was violated.

St. Joseph Circuit Judge Michael Gotsch granted the SBCSC’s motion for summary judgment without conducting a de novo review of whether the CBA was violated. He concluded the SBCSC was within its right to fire Jenkins and that the superintendent wasn’t contractually compelled to follow the advisory opinion of the arbitrator.

“In this case, we conclude that the ‘exclusive remedy’ provision of the CBA at issue here was intended to function only as an exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies provision and not as a bar to Jenkins’s exercise of her right to free and open courts and their remedies,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. “Thus, under this CBA Jenkins must proceed through the grievance procedure prior to resorting to judicial review of her claims. The advisory nature of the arbitrator’s award allows the non-prevailing party, here SBCSC, to reject the award, thus triggering judicial review, either under the (Indiana Uniform Arbitration Act’s) provisions or for a determination whether the facts found by the arbitrator support the award. Consequently, we find that the trial court erred by declining to make that determination and by entering summary judgment in favor of SBCSC.”

The appellate court remanded Lula L. Jenkins, et al. v. South Bend Community School Corp., 71A03-1206-PL-260, for further proceedings.

 

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  1. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  2. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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  4. It would appear that news breaking on Drudge from the Hoosier state (link below) ties back to this Hoosier story from the beginning of the recent police disrespect period .... MCBA president Cassandra Bentley McNair issued the statement on behalf of the association Dec. 1. The association said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. “The MCBA does not believe this was a just outcome to this process, and is disheartened that the system we as lawyers are intended to uphold failed the African-American community in such a way,” the association stated. “This situation is not just about the death of Michael Brown, but the thousands of other African-Americans who are disproportionately targeted and killed by police officers.” http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/07/18/hate-cops-sign-prompts-controversy/87242664/

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