Arbitrator’s Decision Reinstating Paraprofessional Accorded Significant Deference By Illinois Supreme Court

by Franczek Radelet P.C.

In Griggsville-Perry Community Unit School District No. 4 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, the Illinois Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the significant deference given to arbitration awards arising out of collective bargaining agreements subject to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.

Griggsville-Perry Community Unit School District No. 4 had employed Angie Hires as a paraprofessional for 11 years. In 2007, the principal began to keep notes of her contacts with Hires in which the principal encouraged Hires to "smile more" and be more "positive" around students. The principal also recorded the following two incidents: a teacher reported negativity from Hires, and a parent complained that Hires was not treating students equally and fairly. However, neither incident was brought to Hires’ attention, investigated, or placed in her official personnel file. There was no evidence that Hires had ever been disciplined by the district, and Hires’ personnel file contained only three notes mentioning the principal’s reminders regarding her work attitude.

At the regularly scheduled February Board meeting, the Board asked the principal whether there were any staff members about whom she had concerns. After retrieving her personal notes and discussing them with the Board, the principal recommended that Hires be discharged. Hires had no notice that her performance would be discussed at this meeting.

Following the meeting, the superintendent provided written notice to Hires that, because she did not "relate well" to students and was "not always pleasant," she would be dismissed, and could respond to these deficiencies at the next Board meeting. The union filed a grievance, citing the lack of specificity in the allegations and the lack of notice, warning, and opportunity to respond to the alleged deficiencies. The Board denied the grievance, and after Hires appeared before the Board at its next meeting, the Board dismissed her.

The union proceeded to arbitration on its grievance. The collective bargaining agreement between the district and union required that, when a union member appeared before the Board on a disciplinary matter, the member be given "reasonable prior written notice of the reasons for such meeting." The arbitrator found that the district violated this provision by deciding to discharge Hires before first notifying her about the concerns regarding her job performance, and before affording her an opportunity to speak at a Board meeting.

The district had argued that the notice and hearing provision did not apply to Hires because the collective bargaining agreement did not state a standard for dismissal (such as just cause), and she was thus an at-will employee who could be discharged for any reason at all—even if the contract’s notice and hearing provision had been violated. The arbitrator disagreed. While declining to read into the agreement a just-cause standard (which the union had unsuccessfully bargained for), the arbitrator found that Hires could not be an at-will employee because the contractual provision requiring notice and a hearing would then be meaningless. The arbitrator instead applied a standard of arbitrariness, and found that the district violated the collective bargaining agreement when discharging Hires without specific notice and by giving her a hearing after the Board had already decided to dismiss her. The arbitrator awarded reinstatement.

The district challenged the award by refusing to comply with it, prompting the union to file an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). After the IELRB confirmed the arbitrator’s award, the district appealed the decision to the appellate court, which reversed and found the arbitrator’s interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement to be "clearly erroneous." The union and the IELRB then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Court explained that the role of a court reviewing an arbitrator’s award is "extremely limited" and quite deferential: a court does not review the correctness of the arbitrator’s interpretation of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, but instead determines whether the arbitrator’s award "draws its essence" from that agreement. Here, the arbitrator’s award was clearly rooted in an interpretation of the notice and hearing provision in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. As a result, it drew its essence from the contract and the award should be, and was, affirmed.

This case reaffirms the deference given by the Illinois courts to arbitration awards, and the challenges faced by the parties who seek to overturn those awards on appeal.  

More Information

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Franczek Radelet P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Franczek Radelet P.C.

Franczek Radelet P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.