Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kmetz v. American Association of University Professors

Supreme Court of Delaware

September 27, 2017

JOHN KMETZ, Plaintiff-Below, Appellant,
v.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS, and A.A.U.P.-CBC-DELAWARE CHAPTER, Defendants-Below, Appellees.

          Submitted: September 13, 2017

         Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No. N16C-04-249 DCS

          Before VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.

          ORDER.

          Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.

         This 27th day of September, 2017, having considered the briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) John Kmetz, a professor at the University of Delaware, was denied a promotion to full professor. The American Association of University Professors ("AAUP") refused to file a grievance on his behalf. Three years later, Kmetz filed a complaint against the AAUP and its Delaware Chapter in Superior Court alleging three claims: (1) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (2) breach of fiduciary duty, and (3) breach of contract. The Superior Court dismissed Kmetz's claims because they were essentially a claim for a breach of the duty of fair representation, which is within the jurisdiction of the Public Employee Relations Board ("PERB"). Because Kmetz did not exhaust his administrative remedies before PERB, the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to hear his claims. We agree with the Superior Court and affirm its decision.

         (2) John Kmetz was an assistant professor at the University of Delaware from 1977 until his retirement in 2014. Kmetz applied for promotion to full professor in 2012. The Faculty Senate Committee reviewed Kmetz's application and recommended his promotion. The interim provost declined to follow the committee's recommendation and denied Kmetz's application on February 28, 2013. Kmetz appealed the decision to the provost on March 15, 2013 and was again denied.

         (3) Kmetz requested the Delaware Chapter of the AAUP file a Step 3 Grievance against the University. In a Step 3 Grievance, the AAUP represents the employee in a full hearing before the provost and two faculty members. The AAUP has discretion to bring a Step 3 Grievance under the collective bargaining agreement between the AAUP and the University. On May 15, 2013, the AAUP formally declined to file the grievance.

         (4) On April 27, 2016, Kmetz filed a complaint in Superior Court against the AAUP, [1] alleging three claims: (1) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (2) breach of fiduciary duty, and (3) breach of contract. The Delaware Chapter of the AAUP filed a motion to dismiss, and the National AAUP filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         (5) The Superior Court dismissed the claims against both defendants, finding they were encompassed in a claim for a breach of the duty of fair representation.[2] Because the Public Employment Relations Act ("PERA") grants PERB jurisdiction in the first instance over a claim of unfair representation, the Superior Court determined it did not have jurisdiction to hear Kmetz's claims.[3]

         (6) Kmetz appeals the Superior Court's holding that his claims are essentially a claim for a breach of the duty of fair representation, and therefore must have been pursued through PERB in the first instance. This Court reviews a motion to dismiss and a motion for judgment on the pleadings de novo.[4]

         (7) PERA grants Kmetz the right to be "represented by [his] exclusive representative, if any, without discrimination."[5] This duty of fair representation includes "the resolution of workplace grievances."[6] When an employee has a right to pursue a grievance, "the State's interference with this right, and its refusal or failure to allow him to do so, may constitute an unfair labor practice" under PERA.[7]

         (8) Kmetz argues that just as "[t]he presence of a federal question does not necessarily create a federal case, "[8] the presence of an issue relating to a union- member relationship "does not automatically . . . require the matter to be brought administratively."[9] In Kmetz's case, however, the unfair representation claim is not present in addition to his other claims, but rather "essentially incorporates" them.[10]

         (9) First, Kmetz claims the AAUP breached its duty of good faith by failing to represent him. The test for unfair representation "is essentially one of good faith."[11] Thus, Kmetz's claim merely restates the unfair representation analysis. Second, Kmetz claims the AAUP breached its fiduciary duty; however, this duty is directly derived from his right to representation under PERA.[12] Lastly, Kmetz claims the AAUP breached the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to represent him.[13] Because the AAUP has discretion to file a Step 3 Grievance under the agreement, the only cause of action to challenge the decision is through an unfair representation ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.