A teacher brought an action against a board seeking to be placed at the appropriate step level on its teacher salary schedule. The teacher was initially placed at the pay grade of “Masters” and “Step 10.” However, she received notice that the HR director improperly authorized the ten years of service credit and was offered a new contract reflecting six years of service credit. The teacher alleged that she felt compelled to accept the offer due to the proximity to the school year; however, she never filed a grievance.

 The teacher argued that she could not invoke the grievance procedure because she was not a union member when she signed the contract. The court rejected this argument, holding that she could have filed her grievance when she received her official contract and became a member of the union, as well as up to 25 days after. This finding was supported by the fact that the teacher had admitted that she was aware of the problem when she signed the contract, as she had stated that she felt “compelled” to do so. Her awareness of the issue further supported that she could have filed a grievance when she became a union member, which would have provided her with an adequate remedy.

 The teacher also alleged that even if she were to file a grievance, it would not provide her a remedy for the past five years that she worked without pursuing it. The court rejected this argument on policy grounds, noting that if a party to an arbitration could use their own delay to exempt themselves from arbitration, then no arbitration agreement would be enforceable because “a party could simply wait it out until the right to arbitrate expired and pursue a claim in court.”

 The court ultimately dismissed the teacher’s complaint, holding that because claims of improper placement on the salary schedule come within the definition of a grievance, the teacher should have filed her grievance as soon as she received her official contract and became a union member. 

State ex rel. Johnston v. N. Olmsted City School Dist. Bd. of Educ. | 2024-Ohio-677 | 8th Appellate District