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Hot Topics in Collective Bargaining

Welcome to a series of columns on emerging topics at the collective bargaining table. This series will provide specific information concerning the demands that school board negotiators are seeing at the bargaining table.

About the author: Philip Gerner, from the Robbins Schwartz law firm, represents school districts in a variety of legal negotiations. He is a frequent presenter for IASB on a full range of labor and employment issues.

Posted March 10, 2014

BARGAINING TABLE: TEACHER RIF

By Philip H. Gerner, III

Since the enactment of SB 7 which significantly changed the teacher reduction-in-force (“RIF”) criteria and process, union bargaining proposals regarding teacher RIF have significantly increased. Union proposals tend to cover:

  1. Expanding role of Joint RIF Committee;
  2. Limiting discretion and authority of superintendent regarding RIF process;
  3. Increasing teachers’ RIF recall rights; and
  4. Retaining seniority as primary criteria in determining RIF layoff order.

School boards should resist these efforts to restrict management rights granted to school administration in the teacher RIF process by SB 7.

Joint RIF Committee

SB 7 designates the Joint RIF Committee (comprised of teachers and administrators) with specific authority primarily to determine whether the district should modify the criteria for placement of teachers in RIF Group 2 (teachers rated “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory”) or RIF Group 4 (teachers rated "excellent"). Union proposals often seek to grant the Joint RIF Committee authority beyond its role and authority under SB 7.

Union proposals often provide that the Joint RIF Committee (rather than superintendent) will review and approve the placement of teachers on the sequence of dismissal (“SOD”) list. These proposals shift authority from the superintendent to the Joint RIF Committee to determine administrative decisions, including whether a teacher's qualifications entitle them to SOD list placement in multiple categories of position and how to rank teachers on the SOD list for purposes of RIF layoff.

The recommended management approach is to preclude any provisions regarding the Joint RIF Committee in the CBA. Alternatively, the board should limit the Joint RIF Committee's authority to an annual review of the RIF group criteria in accordance with SB 7.

RIF Recall Rights

SB 7 limits RIF recall rights to tenured and non-tenured teachers in RIF Groups 3 and 4 (i.e., teachers with “proficient” or “excellent” ratings). The union often contends that the contract can supplement SB 7 and that teachers in RIF Group 2 (with “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” ratings) may be entitled to RIF recall.

If the board agrees to this proposal, the district may be required to recall a previously RIF'ed teacher who was rated “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” when a vacancy occurs during the RIF recall period, rather than hire a highly recommended, outside teacher applicant to fill the vacancy. The board should strongly consider rejecting such proposals and limit RIF recall rights to RIF’ed teachers in Groups 3 or 4 only.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily IASB. Districts should consult their school attorney for further clarification.

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