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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A claim that an employee organization has breached its duty of fair representation must be timely raised by the aggrieved individual



A claim that an employee organization has breached its duty of fair representation must be timely raised by the aggrieved individual
2015 NY Slip Op 03810, Appellate Division, Second Department

An employee organization’s duty of fair representation is the legal duty requiring the employee organization to represent every employee in the negotiating unit in good faith,  regardless of whether the employee is a member of the employee organization or not.

In Cox v Subway Surface Supervisors Association, et al., 69 AD3d 438, the Appellate Division noted that [1] the individual must be in the negotiating unit represented by the employee organization’s when the alleged breach of the employee organization’s duty of fair representation is alleged to have occurred;* and [2] the fact that the individual disagrees with the employee organization’s action or negotiating position does not, without more, constitute proof of the employee organization’s failure of its duty of fair representation.

In any event, a claim that the employee organization had breached its duty of fair representation must be timely filed.

In this action an arbitrator confirmed the decision to terminate the plaintiff's [Plaintiff] employment on October 10, 2008. The employee organization allegedly notified the Plaintiff or about on October 10, 2008 that it would not appeal the arbitrator's determination. 

Supreme Court found that the employee organization had demonstrated that the Plaintiff did not commence this action until 2010, significantly more than four months after Plaintiff’s claim for the alleged breach of the duty of fair representation accrued. Accordingly, Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s petition as time-barred.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s determination, explaining that the employee organization had met its prima facie burden by establishing that the cause of action alleging that it breached its duty of fair representation was untimely and that  Plaintiff had failed to raise a triable issue of fact. 

Citing Guggenheimer v Ginzburg, 43 NY2d 268, the court further ruled that Supreme Court had  also properly granted that branch of the employee organization’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s amended complaint seeking to recover damages for discrimination "for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7)."

* To the same end, in Burnham and UFT, 28 PERB 4590, PERB ruled that the union's "duty of fair representation" runs only to employees; there is no such duty with respect to former unit members such as retirees. However, in Baker v Irondequoit CSD, 70 NY2d 314, the Court of Appeals held that a union's duty to process a former employee's grievance, under some circumstances, survives the employee's separation.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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