Public Employees Relations Com'n v. District School Bd. of De Soto County, AFL-CI

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtDANAHY; BOARDMAN, Acting C. J., and SCHEB
Citation374 So.2d 1005
Parties102 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2689 PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATIONS COMMISSION, Richard H. Wood, Florida Education Association/United, and De Soto County Teachers' Association, FEA/United, AFT,ppellants, v. DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF DE SOTO COUNTY, Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date06 July 1979
Docket NumberA,AFL-CI,No. 78-1308

Page 1005

374 So.2d 1005
102 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2689
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATIONS COMMISSION, Richard H. Wood, Florida Education Association/United, and De Soto County Teachers' Association, FEA/United, AFT, AFL-CIO, Appellants,
v.
DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF DE SOTO COUNTY, Florida, Appellee.
No. 78-1308.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District.
July 6, 1979.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 10, 1979.

Patricia A. Renovitch, Gen. Counsel, FEA/UNITED, Tallahassee, for appellants Richard H. Wood, Florida Ed. Ass'n/United, and De Soto County Teachers' Ass'n, FEA/UNITED, AFT, AFL-CIO.

Daniel A. Carlton of Dickinson, O'Riorden, Gibbons, Quale, Shields & Carlton, Sarasota, for appellee.

DANAHY, Judge.

At issue here is whether a collective bargaining agreement between a school board and the representative of its teachers may provide a binding arbitration procedure for review of the school board's decision to discharge a teacher on continuing contract status, or whether such a teacher is required to pursue an appeal to the Department of Education as provided in Section 231.36(6), Florida Statutes (1977). The trial judge ruled that the statutory avenue of appeal must be pursued to the exclusion of any alternative avenue provided in the collective bargaining agreement. In order to reach that decision, the trial judge first determined that a circuit court has subject matter jurisdiction to render a declaratory judgment concerning the arbitration provisions of a collective bargaining agreement in the public employment field. We agree with the trial judge on the question of subject matter jurisdiction in this case, but hold that he was in error in ruling that the arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining agreement did not provide an alternative means of review to the discharged teacher. Therefore, we reverse.

Section 231.36(6) empowers a school board to discharge a teacher during the school year on grounds of immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency, gross insubordination, wilful neglect of duty, drunkenness, or conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude, provided that the teacher is given the opportunity to be heard at a public hearing after at least 10 days written notice of the charges against him. The statute further provides that if the teacher is on continuing contract status, he

Page 1008

may appeal the decision of the school board to the Department of Education, and in such a case the decision of the Department shall be final as to the sufficiency of the grounds for the discharge.

Appellant Richard H. Wood (Wood) is a teacher who was employed on continuing contract status by appellee District School Board of De Soto County, Florida (the school board), pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (the agreement) between the school board and appellant De Soto County Teachers' Association, FEA/UNITED, AFT, AFL-CIO (the union). The agreement provides that a teacher shall be discharged for just cause only. It sets forth in a separate article a grievance procedure for determining whether a violation by the school board exists involving the interpretation or application of the terms of the agreement. The grievance procedure includes four levels. The first three levels require a review of the grievance by the principal, the superintendent, and the school board, respectively. The fourth and final level is binding arbitration.

Wood was charged with wilful neglect of duty and gross insubordination, and a public hearing was scheduled by the school board on those charges. Approximately 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the public hearing, Wood filed with the school board a document described therein as a "grievance" in which he asserted that the charges against him were without merit and, in any event, did not constitute "just cause" under the agreement. The public hearing on the charges commenced as scheduled and was continued until June 30, 1977. Wood participated fully in the hearing, presenting evidence and arguments on his behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing on June 30, the school board found Wood guilty of the charges against him and voted that he be discharged. Wood did not seek review of that decision by the Department of Education as provided in Section 231.36(6).

On July 7, 1977, the union, on behalf of Wood, filed a demand for arbitration pursuant to the agreement. The school board did not respond to that demand, having determined to take the position that Wood's sole avenue for review of the school board's decision was by appeal to the Department of Education pursuant to Section 231.36(6) and, therefore, no subject for arbitration existed as between the school board and Wood.

Because of the school board's refusal to participate in the arbitration proceedings demanded, the union filed an unfair labor charge with appellant Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) on July 27, 1977.

On August 8, 1977, the school board initiated this suit by filing a complaint for declaratory judgment in the Circuit Court for De Soto County requesting the court to declare (1) that Wood's sole remedy concerning his employment status with the school board was by appeal to the Department of Education pursuant to Section 231.36(6); (2) that because Wood had failed to appeal his dismissal, no issue subject to arbitration existed as between the school board and Wood; (3) that the school board was not obligated to participate in the arbitration proceedings demanded; and (4) that the actions of the school board did not constitute an unfair labor practice within the meaning of the Florida Statutes.

PERC then filed with this court a suggestion for writ of prohibition alleging that PERC had exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint for declaratory judgment and that the De Soto County Circuit Court was, therefore, without jurisdiction. The school board thereupon withdrew that portion of its complaint which requested the circuit court to declare that the school board's actions did not constitute an unfair labor practice. This court denied the suggestion for writ of prohibition without opinion.

PERC then filed a motion to intervene in the declaratory judgment suit and a motion to dismiss that suit on the ground that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction. On September 21, 1977, PERC issued a complaint charging the school board with an unfair labor practice.

Page 1009

The trial judge granted PERC's motion to intervene but denied its motion to dismiss, whereupon PERC filed with this court another suggestion for writ of prohibition, asserting that the subject matter of the suit involved an unfair labor practice and this matter was in the exclusive jurisdiction of PERC. This court again denied the suggestion for writ of prohibition, without opinion.

The school board filed an answer to PERC's complaint against it and a hearing on the unfair labor practice charge was held before a PERC hearing officer on November 2, 1977. The school board fully participated in that hearing and defended itself on the merits, maintaining throughout, however, that PERC should defer to the exercise of jurisdiction in the matter by the Circuit Court of De Soto County, before which the suit for declaratory judgment was then pending.

The hearing officer found that the school board was guilty of an unfair labor practice by reason of its refusal to arbitrate, and then proceeded to consider what the hearing officer termed the school board's "affirmative defenses." Among these was the school board's contention that Wood failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the agreement concerning the processing of a grievance and, furthermore, that Wood had elected to pursue the statutory procedure concerning his discharge by participating in the public hearing conducted by the school board, which the school board denominated a "Section 231.36(6) hearing." The hearing officer concluded that the school board was not justified on these grounds in refusing to arbitrate, but should have presented these issues to the arbitrator for resolution.

As to the contention of the school board that PERC should defer to the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of De Soto County, the hearing officer characterized the circuit court proceeding as an attempt by the school board to obtain a declaration by the court that the school board had not committed an unfair labor practice in refusing to arbitrate, and ruled that PERC's jurisdiction over unfair labor practice questions is exclusive.

With regard to the effect on the school board's obligation to arbitrate of Wood's failure to appeal the school board's decision to discharge him, the PERC hearing officer felt this, too, to be an issue to be decided by the arbitrator. He further ruled that, even assuming Wood was precluded from relitigating before the arbitrator the truth of the facts upon which the school board based its decision, there would still remain for resolution by the arbitrator the question whether those facts constituted "just cause" within the meaning of the agreement.

The PERC hearing officer recommended that PERC enter an order requiring the school board to cease and desist from refusing to process Wood's grievance to final and binding arbitration. His recommended order was entered on April 18, 1978, and is part of the record on this appeal; but the PERC proceedings are not, of course, before this court for review. Our references to the PERC hearing officer's conclusions and recommendations are solely for the purpose of describing the issues and discussing the appropriate roles of PERC, the court, and an arbitrator in a situation such as that presented in this case.

The final hearing in the declaratory judgment proceedings was held on April 19, 1978, after which the trial judge entered the declaratory judgment from which the union, Wood, and PERC (collectively "appellants") have appealed. That judgment declared that the court had subject matter...

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29 practice notes
  • City of Miami v. F.O.P. Miami Lodge 20, No. 85-2863
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 31, 1989
    ...reversed in part on other grounds, 482 So.2d 336 (Fla.1986). See also Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board, 374 So.2d 1005, 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979) ("It cannot be disputed that matters pertaining to the discharge of a teacher are terms and conditions of Thus, there......
  • State, Dept. of Environmental Regulation v. Falls Chase Special Taxing Dist., No. SS-439
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 23, 1982
    ...remedy is afforded by law. (emphasis added.) And Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board of De Soto County, 374 So.2d 1005 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. den., 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980), interpreting English v. McCrary, held that the writ is appropriate only "where the per......
  • Rewolinski v. Fisher, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 3, 1984
    ...Relations Commission, 392 So.2d 556 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980); Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board of DeSoto County, 374 So.2d 1005 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. denied, 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980). Notably, federal case law under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure......
  • Diaz v. Moore, Civ. A. No. 91-40565/LAC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • August 24, 1994
    ...appears that the denial was intended to be on the merits, see Public Employee Relations Committee v. District Court School Board, 374 So.2d 1005, 1010 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. denied, 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980), the Court finds that this case presents circumstances making the second excepti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • City of Miami v. F.O.P. Miami Lodge 20, No. 85-2863
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 31, 1989
    ...reversed in part on other grounds, 482 So.2d 336 (Fla.1986). See also Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board, 374 So.2d 1005, 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979) ("It cannot be disputed that matters pertaining to the discharge of a teacher are terms and conditions of Thus, there......
  • State, Dept. of Environmental Regulation v. Falls Chase Special Taxing Dist., No. SS-439
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 23, 1982
    ...remedy is afforded by law. (emphasis added.) And Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board of De Soto County, 374 So.2d 1005 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. den., 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980), interpreting English v. McCrary, held that the writ is appropriate only "where the per......
  • Rewolinski v. Fisher, AFL-CIO
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 3, 1984
    ...Relations Commission, 392 So.2d 556 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980); Public Employees Relations Commission v. District School Board of DeSoto County, 374 So.2d 1005 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. denied, 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980). Notably, federal case law under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure......
  • Diaz v. Moore, Civ. A. No. 91-40565/LAC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • August 24, 1994
    ...appears that the denial was intended to be on the merits, see Public Employee Relations Committee v. District Court School Board, 374 So.2d 1005, 1010 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979), cert. denied, 383 So.2d 1193 (Fla.1980), the Court finds that this case presents circumstances making the second excepti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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