This morning, a majority of the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the Chicago Board of Education in a dispute with its teachers union, holding in The Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board that the Board of Education was not required to participate in mandatory arbitration over its policy of placing “do not hire” designations in the files of certain nonrenewed probationary appointed teachers. Our detailed summary of the underlying facts and lower court rulings is here. Our report on the oral argument is here.
Board of Education begin in the summer of 2010, when the Board notified the teachers union that it was designating as ineligible for rehire certain probationary appointed teachers who had either been nonrenewed twice or given an unsatisfactory performance rating. The Board began placing “do not hire” designations in the affected teachers’ files.
The union presented four grievances to the Board – three on behalf of individual teachers and one on behalf of all probationary appointed teachers – and demanded arbitration under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. The Board refused to arbitrate the matter, contending that the “do not hire” notices went to the Board’s exclusively managerial right to decide who it would and wouldn’t hire as teachers. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, alleging that the Board of Education’s refusal to arbitrate violated the Educational Labor Relations Act. The IELRB upheld the grievances and ordered the Board of Education to arbitrate the dispute. A divided panel of the Appellate Court reversed the IELRB, concluding that the matter was exclusively managerial.
In an opinion by Justice Freeman, the Supreme Court affirmed. The Court noted that a school district was permitted to refuse to arbitrate a grievance where: (1) no contract required arbitration of the substance of the dispute; or (2) the dispute was not arbitrable under Illinois law.
Several provisions of the parties’ CBA were relevant to the question of whether the contract covered the matter, according to the Court. According to Article 3 of the CBA, “a complaint involving a work situation, a complaint that there has been a deviation from, misinterpretation of or misapplication of a practice or policy; or a complaint that there has been a violation, misinterpretation or misapplication of any provisions” of the CBA were all arbitrable. Article 34-4 expressly provided that “no derogatory statement about a teacher or other bargaining unit member . . . shall be placed in the teacher’s or other bargaining unit member’s personnel file” without giving the affected person notice and an opportunity to respond. Finally, Article 48-2 provided that “matters of inherent managerial policy” were not arbitrable.
The Court held that the “do not hire” policy related to the Board’s decision to initiate employment – a matter of managerial policy – not to the terms and conditions of employment, and was therefore not arbitrable. Even if the CBA had arguably required arbitration of the matter, the Court majority held that arbitration would still be barred by Section 4 of the Act, which bars arbitration over “matters of inherent managerial policy . . . includ[ing] . . . selection of new employees.” The Court also concluded that requiring arbitration would conflict with various provisions of the School Code, including requirements that Boards appoint teachers “for merit only,” and authorizing Boards to dismiss teachers, including by nonrenewal.
Justice Kilbride dissented. He agreed that employment decisions were a matter of inherent managerial policy and therefore not arbitrable. But the dispute wasn’t about who the Board would and wouldn’t hire, Justice Kilbride concluded. Rather, it was about the placement of derogatory matter in personnel files, which appeared to be a clear violation of Section 34-4 of the CBA. Accordingly, Justice Kilbride concluded that the IELRB’s decision compelling arbitration should have been upheld.