The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) recently held that a public school math teacher concurrently employed as a track coach could proceed with a grievance related to non‑renewal of his coaching position. In Marion Ed Ass’n, Case No. CU17 E‑016, Marion Public Schools chose not to renew Timothy Mitchell as a track coach after Mr. Mitchell was allegedly absent during an athlete’s medical emergency at a track meet. The union filed a grievance on behalf of Mr. Mitchell, but the school district argued that its decision constituted a prohibited subject of bargaining under the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and, consequently, could not be grieved under the collective bargaining agreement between the parties. After the union sought to arbitrate the grievance, the school district filed an unfair labor practice charge with the MERC.
The MERC adopted the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) conclusion that the union had not violated the PERA by pursuing its grievance to arbitration. It noted that, under the PERA, decisions concerning the discharge or discipline of public employees whose employment is regulated by the Teachers’ Tenure Act (TTA) are a prohibited subject of bargaining. However, while Mr. Mitchell’s employment as a math teacher was regulated by the TTA, his employment as a track coach was considered extra duty for extra pay and was not regulated by the TTA. The MERC clarified that if Mr. Mitchell had been disciplined in his capacity as a teacher for his actions as a track coach, then the discipline would pertain to his employment that was regulated by the TTA and, thus, would have been a prohibited subject of bargaining. There was no discipline imposed in that role, however, and he was merely discharged from his employment as the track coach. Therefore, discipline or discharge relative to his employment as a track coach was not a prohibited subject of bargaining, and the union was permitted to pursue a grievance regarding same.
The ALJ’s decision provides an excellent summary of case law and legislative history related to the relevant portions of the PERA and the MERC’s jurisdiction over extracurricular issues. The MERC and ALJ decisions may be accessed here.