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Williams v. Metro

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

June 27, 2018

THEODORE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
METRO, a.k.a. SOUTHWEST OHIO REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY (SORTA), and AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 627, Defendants-Appellees.

          Civil Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas TRIAL NO. A-1603301

          William D. Bell, Sr., for Plaintiff-Appellant

          Dinsmore and Shohl, Allison L. Goico and Susan H. Jackson for Defendant-Appellee Metro

          Jubelirer, Pass and Intrieri, P.C., and Joseph S. Pass, Jr., for Defendant-Appellee Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627.

          OPINION

          Zayas, Judge.

         Background

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant Theodore Williams was employed as a mechanic by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority ("SORTA"), also known as Metro. Williams was also a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627 ("the union"), which was a party to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with SORTA. Williams had been disciplined at work for engaging in a physical altercation, and was offered a "Last Chance and Settlement Agreement" ("last chance agreement"). The last chance agreement was a document signed by SORTA, the union, and Williams, acknowledging that, in exchange for not being fired for the current violation of workplace rules, Williams and the union agreed not to challenge Williams's discharge for any future infraction. Williams was disciplined again for "[w]illful misuse of a timecard." He was put on a second last chance agreement. Two months later, Williams was seen away from his SORTA workplace while still clocked in. SORTA terminated his employment.

         {¶2} Williams and the union filed a grievance to contest Williams's discharge pursuant to the CBA. SORTA upheld its decision to terminate Williams.

         {¶3} Williams wanted to pursue his wrongful-discharge claim by taking the matter to arbitration under the CBA. Arbitration required a vote by the union members. They voted not to pursue arbitration.

         {¶4} Williams filed suit against SORTA and the union. He alleged two claims against SORTA. The first claim was for wrongful discharge. The second claim was for discrimination as Williams claimed that two other employees, one of whom was Hispanic and younger and one of whom was Caucasian, had signed last chance agreements but were not discharged by SORTA for similar infractions. Williams's third claim was against the union, and alleged that, by refusing to pursue his claim through arbitration, the union had breached its contractual duty to fairly represent him.

         {¶5} The union filed a motion to dismiss the third count of the complaint on the basis that SORTA is a public employer, and therefore, claims against the union for unfair labor practices must be filed with the State Employment Relations Board ("SERB").

         {¶6} SORTA filed a motion to dismiss the wrongful-discharge claim on the ground that it was governed by the CBA and was, therefore, under the exclusive jurisdiction of SERB.

         {¶7} The trial court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, Williams presents two assignments of error. We hold that the trial court erred by dismissing the second count of the complaint against SORTA, which alleged discrimination, and reverse the trial court's judgment as to that claim.

         Exclusive ...


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