Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas TRIAL NO.
William D. Bell, Sr., for Plaintiff-Appellant
Dinsmore and Shohl, Allison L. Goico and Susan H. Jackson for
Jubelirer, Pass and Intrieri, P.C., and Joseph S. Pass, Jr.,
for Defendant-Appellee Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627.
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.
Williams and the union filed a grievance to contest
Williams's discharge pursuant to the CBA. SORTA upheld
its decision to terminate Williams.
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
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.
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
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.
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.