Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed February 22, 2013
Griggsville-Perry Community Unit School District No. 4 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 2013 IL 113721
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (4th) 110210.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Karmeier specially concurred, with opinion.
This school employment dispute comes from Griggsville-Perry Community Unit School District No. 4 in Pike County. The concerned employee was a “paraprofessional” who, for 11 years, had worked in the elementary school library, helped at recess, and taught keyboarding classes. She was a member of the Griggsville-Perry Federation of Support Personnel IFT-AFT, Local #4141, which had a collective-bargaining agreement with the employing school district, the plaintiff here. The collective-bargaining agreement provided that when “a member of the bargaining unit is required to appear before the Board of Education concerning any disciplinary matter, the staff member shall be given reasonable prior written notice of the reasons for such meeting and shall be entitled to have a personal representative at said meeting.”
In February of 2008, the school principal recommended the employee’s discharge to the school board and the union filed a grievance with the district, which was denied. The employee spoke at the regular March meeting of the school board, although the concerns at issue had not been previously specified to her, and she was then discharged. The matter then went to arbitration, as provided in the collective-bargaining agreement. The arbitrator ordered a reinstatement after concluding that the employee had not received a fair hearing.
The school district challenged the arbitrator’s decision by refusing to comply with it. The union then filed an unfair labor practice charge with respondent Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The Board confirmed the arbitrator’s award and plaintiff school district appealed to the appellate court under Supreme Court Rule 335. The appellate court held that the arbitrator’s award was “clearly erroneous.”
In this decision, the supreme court held that the “clearly erroneous” standard is not the proper standard for review where, as here, the parties’ collective-bargaining agreement calls for disputes to be settled by an arbitrator. A court’s review of an arbitrator’s award is extremely limited, and the question is whether the decision draws its essence from the collective-bargaining agreement. Whether an arbitrator has exceeded his authority under the collective-bargaining agreement presents a high hurdle to one challenging the decision and, on review, presents a question of law.
The arbitrator had interpreted the quoted provision of the collective-bargaining agreement as calling for a dismissal procedure that was not arbitrary, and he found arbitrariness in the lack of information given to the employee prior to her dismissal.
Finding that the arbitrator’s decision was based on the language of the collective-bargaining agreement and the parties’ bargaining history, the supreme court reversed the judgment of the appellate court and held that the Board did not err in ordering the school district to comply with the arbitrator’s award.