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04/25/96 GRANITE CITY COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL

April 25, 1996

GRANITE CITY COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT # 9, PETITIONER,
v.
THE ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND GRANITE CITY FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, LOCAL 743, IFT/AFT, RESPONDENTS.



Administrative Review of the Illinois Labor Relations Board. No. 94CA0035S.

Released for Publication April 25, 1996. As Corrected August 28, 1996.

Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable Rita B. Garman, J., Concurring. Justice Green delivered the opinion of the court: Steigmann and Garman, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Green

The Honorable Justice GREEN delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner Granite City Community Unit School District No. 9 (District) has taken administrative review to this court (115 ILCS 5/16 (West 1994)) from an order of respondent Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (Board). Granite City Community School District 9, 11 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 1053, No. 94-CA-0035-S (Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, May 24, 1995). The order of the Board affirmed the finding of an administrative law judge (ALJ) that the District had violated section 14(a)(1) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (Act) (115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1) (West 1994)) by refusing to arbitrate a grievance. We affirm.

The facts of this case are not in dispute. On January 12, 1994, Wanda Carroll, a certified employee of the District, was shoved twice by one of her students. Carroll reported the matter to her principal, James Jeffries. A conference with Jeffries, Carroll, and the student's parents was held, following which Carroll stated she would file a police report on the incident. Carroll noticed the student in school the next day and demanded Jeffries explain why the student had not been suspended. After Jeffries explained to Carroll his decision not to suspend the student, Carroll allegedly called Jeffries a "wimp."

Jeffries then requested Carroll to go home for the remainder of the day, without pay. Carroll at first ignored this request, but later that morning, after meeting with Jeffries, his supervisor Tom Holloway, and Granite City Federation of Teachers (Union) President Tom Turner, Carroll left school for the day. She returned to work the following day.

A notice of disciplinary hearing was sent to Carroll on January 31, notifying her the District would hold an administrative hearing on February 22 regarding Carroll's exchange with Jeffries. Following the hearing, Carroll received a one-day suspension without pay for her conduct toward Jeffries. The District decided the one-day suspension would be considered served on January 13, the day Carroll was originally asked to go home. As the Board noted in its decision, the record does not disclose any District policy or rule upon which the suspension was based. The District apparently never contemplated dismissing Carroll.

On March 11, representatives of the Union and the District signed a letter agreeing to bypass the last two steps in the grievance procedure and to proceed directly to arbitration. On March 15, the Union filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (Association). The District notified the Association that it did not feel the matter was arbitrable and that it would not abide by any arbitration award. The Association found an arbitrable issue existed and set a hearing date of August 26.

On March 18, the Union first filed with the Board an unfair labor practice charge against the District. Eventually, the sole charge that emerged was the Union's claim that the District violated section 14(a)(1) of the Act by refusing to arbitrate the grievance. On June 30, a complaint and notice of hearing were issued. On November 10, the ALJ issued her recommended decision and order, finding the matter arbitrable and concluding the District had violated section 14(a)(1) of the Act by refusing arbitration. Granite City Community Unit School District 9, 10 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 1133, No. 94-CA-0035-S (Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, Administrative Law Judge's Recommended Decision and Order, November 10, 1994). On May 24, 1995, the Board issued its final order affirming the decision of the ALJ, and this appeal followed.

Our review of rulings made by an administrative agency extends to all questions of law and fact presented by the record. 735 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 1994); Southwest Energy Corp. v. Pollution Control Board, 275 Ill. App. 3d 84, 90, 655 N.E.2d 304, 308, 211 Ill. Dec. 401 (1995). However, we do not accord questions of fact and questions of law the same degrees of deference. Township of Harlem v. Environmental Protection Agency, 265 Ill. App. 3d 41, 44, 637 N.E.2d 1252, 1254, 202 Ill. Dec. 516 (1994). We consider an agency's findings of fact to be prima facie true and correct. 735 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 1994); Du Page Area Vocational Education Authority v. State of Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 167 Ill. App. 3d 927, 937, 522 N.E.2d 292, 298, 118 Ill. Dec. 837 (1988). While an agency's interpretation of a statute which that agency is charged with administering and enforcing is entitled to some deference, we are not bound by that agency's rulings on questions of law. City of Burbank v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 128 Ill. 2d 335, 345, 538 N.E.2d 1146, 1149, 131 Ill. Dec. 590 (1989).

A charge that a party has committed an unfair labor practice as a result of an arbitrability dispute may arise in two different contexts. Following arbitration, a party's refusal to abide by a binding arbitration award may establish an unfair labor practice under section 14(a)(8) of the Act (115 ILCS 5/14(a)(8) (West 1994)). See e.g., Board of Education of Danville Community Consolidated School District No. 118 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 175 Ill. App. 3d 347, 349, 529 N.E.2d 1110, 1112, 125 Ill. Dec. 34 (1988); Midwest Central Education Ass'n v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 213 Ill. Dec. 894, 277 Ill. App. 3d 440, 445, 660 N.E.2d 151, 154 (1995); Faculty Association of District 205 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 175 Ill. App. 3d 880, 890, 530 N.E.2d 548, 555, 125 Ill. Dec. 390 (1988). Alternatively, disputes over arbitrability may also constitute an unfair labor practice where arbitration has been refused, as section 14(a)(1) of the Act makes the refusal to submit an employee grievance to arbitration an unfair labor practice. Board of Trustees, Prairie State College v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, 173 Ill. App. 3d 395, 409, 527 N.E.2d 538, 547, 123 Ill. Dec. 75 (1988).

In defense of a refusal to arbitrate a dispute, a party may claim arbitration of the disputed matter would violate section 10(b) of the Act (115 ILCS 5/10(b) (West 1994)). Section 10(b) of the Act states in part:

"The parties to the collective bargaining process shall not effect or implement a provision in a collective bargaining agreement if the implementation of that provision would be in violation of, or inconsistent with, or in conflict with any statute or statutes enacted by the ...


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