Heard: January 16, 2018
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on May 13,
application for a stay of arbitration was heard by Brian A.
Davis, J., and entry of judgment was ordered by David
R. Houle for the defendant.
P. Hoban for the plaintiff.
Present: Trainor, Massing, & Singh, JJ.
Spencer-East Brookfield Teachers' Association
(association) appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court
permanently staying the grievance arbitration proceeding
commenced by the association before the Department of Labor
Relations (DLR). The association argues that the arbitration
became moot once the teacher involved withdrew his grievance,
and, thus, the matter should have been dismissed. At the same
time, the association argues that the teacher had an absolute
right to arbitrate an alleged collective bargaining agreement
(CBA) violation that preceded his termination. The
association maintains that it is irrelevant that the teacher
did not have professional teacher status, that he had been
employed for less than ninety days, and that reinstatement
was the remedy being sought. We affirm.
Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District (district)
and the association entered into a CBA that covered the
period July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2018. Edward Suglia was
hired by the district in December, 2015. His employment was
terminated on January 15, 2016, after approximately
forty-four days of employment with the district. On January
19, 2016, the association filed a grievance on behalf of
Suglia which asserted that his "rights under the
Collective Bargaining Agreement were violated by the school
committee . . . when he was terminated . . . without the
supports and process that are contractually guaranteed."
The school committee, pursuant to Level Four of Article XX of
the CBA, determined that it had no jurisdiction over the
grievance because it was a personnel matter, and notified the
association that it could proceed to Level Five of the
April, 2016, the association filed a petition to arbitrate
Suglia's termination with the DLR. The petition asserted
that the termination violated the terms of the CBA because
the district had failed in its obligations pursuant to
Article XVI and Article VIII of the CBA. The association
specifically asserted that Suglia's termination violated
the provisions of the "Educator Evaluation Process"
instrument, which provides a procedure for evaluating teacher
progress and is incorporated by reference into the
parties' CBA. As remedies, the petition sought
"[r]einstatement; make grievant whole; and any and all
additional appropriate remedy."
to G. L. c. 150C, § 2(b), the district sought a
permanent stay of the grievance arbitration proceedings that
had been commenced in the DLR, on the ground that the
association's demand was not arbitrable. The Superior
Court issued an order, dated September 7, 2016, allowing the
district's application to stay the grievance arbitration,
and finding that, in the circumstances of this case, the
association had no right to grievance arbitration under the
CBA and that its remedy existed exclusively in statute.
Shortly thereafter, because the matter was pending in the
Superior Court, the association sought and obtained a
temporary administrative closure of the grievance arbitration
district then notified the DLR of the court's order
staying the arbitration proceedings and requested the
dismissal of the arbitration proceeding. The association
filed an opposition to the requested dismissal. On October
28, 2016, however, the association withdrew its petition for
grievance arbitration before the DLR and notified the
Superior Court that the "Plaintiff's petition to
stay arbitration is now moot and there is no need for further
proceedings beyond the decision already issued by this
Court." The district responded by seeking entry of
judgment permanently staying the grievance arbitration sought
by the association. A judge of the Superior Court allowed the
motion, determining that the issue in dispute had been
decided on the merits and had been fully adjudicated. He
further found that the issue raised as to whether the CBA
"may provide for arbitration of teachers' rights
that transcend the ones particular to [the] terminated member
. . . merits resolution despite the . . . withdrawal of [the]
arbitration petition, " and that the matter was not
moot. The association appeals from that determination.