State ex rel. v. School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 2004-0701.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Citation105 Ohio St.3d 476,829 N.E.2d 298,444 Mass. 1103-1105
Docket NumberNo. 2004-0701.,2004-0701.
Parties[The STATE ex rel.] STACY, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, v. BATAVIA LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellees and Cross-Appellants.
Decision Date29 June 2005

Page 298

829 N.E.2d 298
105 Ohio St.3d 476
[The STATE ex rel.] STACY, Appellant and Cross-Appellee,
No. 2004-0701.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted March 1, 2005.
Decided June 29, 2005.

Page 299


Page 300


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Buckley King, James E. Melle, and Donell Grubbs, Columbus, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Ennis, Roberts & Fischer Co., L.P.A., and C. Bronston McCord III, Cincinnati, for cross-appellants and appellees.


{¶ 1} This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a judgment awarding back pay and benefits in a mandamus action. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

{¶ 2} From March 1985 through August 21, 1998, appellee and cross-appellant Batavia Local School District Board of Education employed appellant and cross-appellee, Dorsie Stacy, as a mechanic, under a continuing contract. During this period, Stacy was primarily responsible for performing repairs and maintenance on vehicles and equipment owned by the board. Stacy routinely repaired and replaced brakes, exhaust systems, transmissions, and engines on school buses. Although Stacy also occasionally cleaned, fueled, and washed the buses during this period, the bus drivers performed most of these duties. While employed as a mechanic by the board, Stacy generally worked indoors from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

{¶ 3} In June 1998, the board contracted with Laidlaw Transit, Inc. ("Laidlaw") for Laidlaw to provide transportation services in the school district for five years. On July 20, 1998, the board abolished the bus-driver and mechanic positions and laid off the employees in those positions, including Stacy, effective August 21, 1998. Stacy and the other employees received written notification of the layoffs, which specified that "[r]einstatement to employment shall be made from the list of laid off employees in order of seniority."

{¶ 4} Under its contract with the board, Laidlaw agreed to offer employment to the laid-off employees and to provide a three-percent increase in pay and comparable benefits to these employees. On June 24, 1998, Laidlaw offered Stacy employment as a bus mechanic at his 1997-1998 salary plus a three-percent increase. Stacy would also receive comparable health and dental insurance and continued participation in the School Employees Retirement System ("SERS"). Stacy, however, was already earning his 1998-1999 salary of $31,152.94 under his continuing contract with the board, which Stacy claimed was three percent more than what Laidlaw was offering. Stacy would have been performing essentially the same work he had been providing when employed by the board, with some additional computer data entry. Stacy rejected the offer.

{¶ 5} After refusing the job offer from Laidlaw, Stacy tendered his written resignation from employment with the board effective August 21, 1998, and requested to be paid for all unused vacation and personal days. Although Stacy accrued sick leave at the rate of 15 days a year during

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his over 13 years of employment with the board, he had a balance of only 29.75 days of sick leave as of August 1998. Stacy also accrued 3 days of personal leave per year, but as of August 1998, he had a balance of only 3 days.

{¶ 6} Stacy then applied for and received retirement benefits. He received $5,754.20 from SERS for the 1998-1999 school year and $6,984 from SERS for the 1999-2000 school year. In 2001, Stacy received $7,215.76 from SERS. Stacy also received Social Security benefits beginning in 1999, including $9,120 in 2001 and $9,348 in 2002.

{¶ 7} If he had continued to be employed by the board after August 21, 1998, Stacy claims, he would have earned the following salaries under the applicable collective-bargaining agreements: 1998-1999 school year — $31,152.94; 1999-2000 school year — $34,206.72; 2000-2001 school year — $34,654.40; 2001-2002 school year — $35,214.40; and for the 2002-2003 school year until his reinstatement on December 23, 2002 — $16,523.68. These salary amounts include step increases, which the school district treasurer conceded Stacy would have received had he continued in the board's employ. Stacy earned $4,792.76 working for the board in the 1998-1999 school year until his retirement in August 1998.

{¶ 8} The collective-bargaining agreements during the period of Stacy's retirement provided for 15 days of sick leave per year, accrued at the rate of 1.25 days per month. These agreements also provided an attendance incentive of up to $300 a year for an employee who has taken no days off for sick leave or personal leave.

{¶ 9} In August 1998, Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME, Local 4, AFL-CIO, the representative of the bargaining unit that included school bus drivers and Stacy as the sole mechanic, requested that the board honor the statutory employment contracts and continue to employ the bus drivers for school year 1998-1999 and thereafter. Stacy had already tendered his resignation to the board, and the board had accepted it.

{¶ 10} On August 24, 1998, the union and the school bus drivers filed an action for a writ of mandamus to compel the board, its superintendent, its treasurer, and its president to reinstate them and award back pay and lost benefits. Stacy, who had retired, was not a party to this action. After the court of appeals denied the writ, this court, on June 21, 2000, reversed the judgment, granted the writ, and remanded the cause to the court of appeals for a determination of back pay and benefits. State ex rel. Ohio Assn. of Pub. School Emp./AFSCME, Local 4, AFL-CIO v. Batavia Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. (2000), 89 Ohio St.3d 191, 198-199, 729 N.E.2d 743 ("OAPSE"). The court held that the board was not authorized to lay off the bus drivers, that the outsourcing of their jobs to Laidlaw was invalid, and that the bus drivers were entitled to reinstatement. Id.

{¶ 11} Shortly after the court's judgment in OAPSE, by letter dated July 17, 2000, Stacy requested that the board reinstate him as a school bus mechanic. On July 18, 2000, Stacy formally applied for a mechanic position that had been advertised by the board. The board did not reinstate him or hire him for the mechanic position. From the date of his retirement in August 1998 until he applied for the mechanic position in July 2000, Stacy did not apply for any position with any other employer. Pursuant to OAPSE, the board reinstated all of the laid-off bus drivers, who, unlike Stacy, had not retired.

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{¶ 12} On October 10, 2000, Stacy filed a complaint in the Court of Appeals for Clermont County for a writ of mandamus to compel cross-appellants, hereafter collectively referred to as "board," to reinstate him to his position as mechanic, honor his statutory employment contract, and award him both back pay and lost benefits. Stacy claimed that the judgment in OAPSE collaterally estopped the board from contesting Stacy's right to reinstatement, back pay, and lost benefits.

{¶ 13} On March 11, 2002, the court of appeals denied the writ. The court of appeals concluded that Stacy had waived his right to reinstatement and back pay because he had voluntarily retired.

{¶ 14} On December 4, 2002, we reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. State ex rel. Stacy v. Batavia Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 97 Ohio St.3d 269, 2002-Ohio-6322, 779 N.E.2d 216 ("Stacy I"). We held that although collateral estoppel did not preclude the board from contesting Stacy's entitlement to the writ, the board's actions in abolishing his mechanic position, laying him off, and contracting out his job to Laidlaw were prohibited by R.C. 3319.081. Id., ¶ 20. We further held that "Stacy's August 1998 retirement was involuntary because it was precipitated by the board's illegal actions." Id., ¶ 30. We remanded the cause for issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel the board to reinstate Stacy to his former position as a mechanic and for the court of appeals to resolve Stacy's claim for back pay and lost benefits. Id., ¶ 31-32.

{¶ 15} Pursuant to our order, the board notified Stacy to report for work on December 23, 2002. On that date, Stacy reported for work and was advised by a board employee that he could not work his old hours because the board had hired a mechanic for that time and that his new hours would be 5:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. He was further advised that his new duties could consist of fueling, sweeping, mopping, and washing the buses and notifying other employees of any defects he discovered when driving the buses to get gas. He was not permitted to perform his old duties of maintaining and repairing the buses. According to board employees, Stacy was not allowed to perform his previous maintenance duties on the buses because of concerns about the poor condition in which he had left the buses when he retired. The board acknowledged, however, that there was nothing in Stacy's personnel file indicating that Stacy had poorly performed his maintenance duties while employed by the board.

{¶ 16} On December 27, 2002, Stacy injured himself while fueling buses. Stacy returned to work on January 6, 2003, and worked until January 9, 2003, when he alleged that the back pain from his injury forced him to leave work.

{¶ 17} On remand under our order, the court of appeals granted Stacy leave to file an amended/supplemental complaint. In his amended/supplemental complaint, Stacy requested a writ of mandamus ordering the board to (1) reinstate him to his former position as a mechanic, (2) award him lost back pay and benefits, (3) prohibit the board from retaliating against, discriminating against, or terminating him for improper reasons, (4) award him costs and attorney fees because the board's refusal to reinstate him and pay him his back pay was frivolous conduct under R.C. 2323.51, and (5) award him compensatory and punitive damages...

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