The employee organization's duty of fair representation
Walsh v Rochester Teachers’ Asso. and the Rochester City School District, App. Div., 4th Dept., 266 AD2d 817
The lesson of the Walsh case is that if a unit member sues a union for its alleged violation of its duty of fair representation, s/he must name the specific individuals involved in, or whose actions constituted, the violation.
Timothy J. Walsh, a tenured social studies teacher said that he was induced to resign from his position effective June 26, 1997 because the Rochester City School District’s personnel director, Rebbeca Torres-Lynch told him that he would be transferred to an elementary school teaching position. Walsh also held tenure for the elementary teacher position.
The district, however, treated Walsh’s letter of resignation as a resignation from District employment and he was not given an elementary school teaching position in the following school year.
Walsh sued the district, the personnel director for “intentional misrepresentation” and the Rochester Teachers’ Association for violating its duty of “fair representation.” Considering Walsh’s allegations concerning the association, the Appellate Division said that Supreme Court was incorrect when it denied the association’s motion to dismiss Walsh’s complaint against it.
Walsh charged that while the association had provided him with “some assistance” in his efforts to “rescind” his resignation, it had violated its duty to represent him under the collective bargaining agreement. Walsh also alleged that all the defendants’ actions were “intentional and caused [him] to suffer emotional distress.”
However, he named only the association’s president, Adam Urbanski, as a defendant in his “official capacity” as president. In contrast, Walsh named the district’s personnel director as a defendant in both her official capacity and “individually”.
The Appellate Division said that Walsh’s “failure to allege that individual members of the [association] authorized or ratified the complained of conduct renders the amended complaint fatally defective as against the [association].”
In an earlier case involving the Rochester Teachers’ Association, Grahame v Rochester Teachers’ Associations, 262 AD2d 963, [motion for leave to appeal denied, 94 NY2d 796], the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, rejected the association’s motion to dismiss the complaint because Grahame did not allege that the individual members of association ratified the acts of their representative. The Grahame case, however, alleged the association was negligent in providing retirement information to a member, not that it breached its duty of fair representation to that member.
The Appellate Division also said that Supreme Court should have dismissed his petition as untimely. The court observed that “although Walsh may have had a reasonable belief that the association would represent him for some period of time after his last interaction with an association agent in late July 1997,” there was nothing in his complaint to support this belief through January 12, 1998, the last day on which he could file a timely cause of action for breach of the association’s duty of fair representation.
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