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MI Court of Appeals Confirms Teacher Placement is Prohibited Subject of Bargaining

August 3, 2015

In a decision designated for publication, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) that dismissed an unfair labor practice charge against a public school district that unilaterally discontinued a bid bumping meeting for placement of teachers. Ionia Public Schools v Ionia Education Association, Mich App No. 321728 (July 28, 2015). For 27 years, the Ionia Public Schools permitted teachers to bid on open positions in a "bid bump" meeting that took place near the end of the school year. After the enactment of MCL 423.215(3)(j), the School District discontinued this practice. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge accusing the School District of wrongfully engaging in a unilateral action in violation of its duty to bargain under the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA). The Administrative Law Judge awarded summary disposition, which was affirmed by MERC. Section 15(3)(j) of PERA, MCL 423.215(j), treats as a prohibited subject "any decision made by a public school employer regarding teacher placement, or the impact of that decision on an individual employee of the bargaining unit."

The Michigan Court of Appeals found the language of §15(3)(j) to be clear and unambiguous. The Michigan Court of Appeals also found that the language was very broad, encompassing any School District decision relating to teacher placement or assignment:

In other words, the legislature intended to remove from the ambit of bargaining any decision concerning the assignment or placement of teachers, and that any decision making about teacher placement or assignments is to be within the sole discretion of the employer. The broad language used in the statute necessarily includes any decision-making processes as well; and consequently, policies and procedures used to make teacher placement decisions such as those at issue in the instant case undoubtedly fall within the broad reach of "any decision" regarding teacher placement. Therefore, the plain language of §15(3)(j) precludes bargaining over the bid bump procedure, or any other procedure utilized in teacher placement.

Since the Michigan Court of Appeals has designated the Ionia Public Schools' decision for publication, the decision will operate as a binding legal precedent. The decision should bar any challenges by labor organizations to decisions relating to teacher placement, assignment and/or transfer. 

If you have any questions regarding this legal development, or wish to discuss any aspect of it in greater detail, please contact Marshall Grate at (616) 608-1103 | or your Clark Hill education law attorney.

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