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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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