Wednesday, January 08, 2014

An employee organization’s duty of fair representation


An employee organization’s duty of fair representation
2013 NY Slip Op 33186(U), Supreme Court, New York County, Judge Donna M. Mills [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports.]

A New York City Department of Education high school teacher [Member], represented for the purposes of collective bargaining by the United Federation of Teachers [UFT], was served with disciplinary charges  pursuant to Education Law §3020-a alleging that she was incompetent.

Member was found guilty of the charges of incompetency following an administrative hearing held pursuant to 3020-a of the Education Law. The penalty imposed: termination from her position.

Following her termination, Member sued the Department of Education, seeking a court order nullifying the hearing officer’s decision to terminate her. Her petition was dismissed on procedural grounds and for lack of merit.*

A year later Member filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her termination was discriminatory. She lost that lawsuit after a jury trial.

Two years later Member sued UFT and several “union lawyers,” blaming them for her termination. This complaint was dismissed as well.

Next Member commenced this action, pro se

According to the decision, Member’s complaint appeared to be in the nature of an allegation that UFT breached its duty of fair representation. UFT filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.

NYS Supreme Court Judge Donna M. Mills, in considering UFT’s motion, applied the following guidelines in considering the merits of UFT’s motion:

1. The court must determine whether from the four corners of Member’s pleading “factual allegations are discerned which taken together manifest any cause of action cognizable at law.”

2. While the allegations in Member’s complaint are to be accepted as true when considering UFT’s motion to dismiss, “allegations consisting of bare legal conclusions, as well as factual claims flatly contradicted by documentary evidence, are not entitled to any such consideration.”

3. New York case law recognizes the existence of a duty of fair representation on the part of public sector unions predicated on their role as exclusive bargaining representatives of its members in the negotiating unit.

4. An employee organization breaches its duty of fair representation “only when a union’s conduct toward a member of the collective bargaining unit is arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith.”

Judge Mills explained that whether that duty has been breached in a particular case is “essentially a factual determination.” Here, said the court, Member’s complaint fails to set forth facts establishing that Member‘s alleged injury arose out of UFT‘s role as the exclusive bargaining representative of the collective bargaining unit in which Member is a member. 

In the words of the court, “Member‘s allegations are conclusory, and lack a factual basis to state a cause of action.”Accordingly, Judge Mills dismissed Member‘s complaint for failure to state a cause of action.

Granting UFT’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Member’s petition, Judge Mills noted that the allegations in the complaint that preceded 2012 were disposed of in a decision by State Supreme Court Justice, Eileen A Rakower, dated December 23, 2011, and reported in 26 Misc.3d 1208(A); 93 A.D.3d 534

The decision is posted on the Internet:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/pdfs/2013/2013_33186.pdf
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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