Ohio Supreme Court Asked to Review Guidance Counselor’s Right to Retain Outside Attorney During Arbitration

Ohio Supreme Court Asked to Review Guidance Counselor’s Right to Retain Outside Attorney During Arbitration

On January 1, 2022,An Ohio guidance counselor who opted out of the union has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn a decision of the 11th District Court of Appeals which found she did not have a right to use her own attorney during an arbitration hearing.

Revised Code 4117.04 requires public employers to extend and recognize the right of a designated union representative to serve as the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit included in a CBA. In the event that an employee wishes to obtain their own attorney at their own expense, unions will typically have procedures for the employee to waive their right to protection and representation under the CBA. If a district allows private representation in meetings such as predisciplinary hearings, they may face an unfair labor practice charge.

The employee contends that denying her choice of legal counsel infringes on the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The lower court held that the employee’s constitutional rights were not violated because the arbitration process was established in a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the union. The court found that the employee herself was not legally entitled to initiate the grievance and arbitration process so her rights to free speech and due process were not violated. By requesting that the union submit the grievance to arbitration, as required by the collective bargaining agreement, the employee “ceded her standing to adjust the grievance.”

The Ohio Supreme Court is not required to take this case. If it decides not to hear the appeal, then the 11th District Court’s decision will remain prevailing law. We will monitor it for further developments.

How this affects your district? The employee in this case is represented by the Buckeye Institute, which has been involved in collective bargaining litigation since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus declaring that fair share fees were unconstitutional. Ennis Britton has seen an increase in the number of employees who request to use their own legal counsel rather than the representation provided by public sector unions. This can put a school district in the middle of a fight between its employee and the union representing bargaining unit members, which may even result in the filing of an ULP charge against the District with the State Employment Relations Board. Districts should contact legal counsel before proceeding with any meeting which is attended by an employee’s non-union attorney.  


































Decision on State Board of Education Resolution on Transgender Protections Delayed

Decision on State Board of Education Resolution on Transgender Protections Delayed

 A “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies” was proposed at the September meeting of the State Board of Education. It was placed on the State Board agenda for its Oct. 11th and 12th meeting dates.

This resolution declares the board’s “unequivocal opposition to the proposed regulatory changes released by the U.S. Department of Education on June 23, 2022.” Specifically, the proposed changes would prohibit schools that receive federal funds from adopting a policy or engaging in a practice that prevents a person from participating in an education program or activity consistent with their gender identity. The resolution opposes these changes and declares support for a lawsuit seeking to invalidate rules concerning the continued receipt of federal nutritional assistance adopted by the Department of Agriculture, which was joined by the Ohio Attorney General and 21 other state attorneys general.

The resolution directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to mail a copy of the resolution to every public school district as well as elementary and secondary schools and preschools receiving federal funds, with a cover letter from the Ohio Department of Education stating the agency opposes Title IX regulatory changes, considers the United States Department of Education guidance documents without legal force and nonbinding, and urges districts not to amend policies and procedures based on USDOE guidance documents.

The final paragraph declares that the State Board rejects harmful, coercive and burdensome gender identity policies, procedures and regulations.

This resolution garnered a lot of state and national attention. The State Board heard four hours of public testimony before deliberating on the resolution. In the end, the State Board voted 12-7 to send the resolution to an executive committee for further consideration.

What this means for your district? The resolution was not passed so the State Board’s action in October to send the resolution to an executive committee for further consideration has no impact on your school district. If passed, the resolution as written would not be binding on local school districts. In the event the resolution passes, school districts should consult with legal counsel before taking any action in accordance with the resolution because doing so may subject your district to liability for failing to comply with federal law.