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In re Petition for Independent Review Ruffenach

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

May 20, 2019

In the Matter of a Petition for Independent Review Thomas Ruffenach, employee, Relator,
v.
Metropolitan Council, Metro Transit Division, public employer, Respondent, Bureau of Mediation Services, Respondent.

          Bureau of Mediation Services File No. 19PIR0218

          Richard T. Wylie, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relator)

          Ann K. Bloodhart, General Counsel, Daniel L. Abelson, Associate General Counsel, Metropolitan Council, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Metropolitan Council)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Kelly S. Kemp, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Bureau of Mediation Services)

          Susan L. Naughton, League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota (for amici curiae League of Minnesota Cities and Association of Minnesota Counties)

          Considered and decided by Smith, Tracy M., Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minn. Stat. § 179A.25 (2018) does not provide for independent review by the Bureau of Mediation Services of a grievance arising out of terms and conditions of employment when a collective-bargaining agreement governing the employment provides a procedure for arbitration of the grievance.

          OPINION

          HALBROOKS, JUDGE

         Relator challenges the dismissal by respondent Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) of relator's petition under Minn. Stat. § 179A.25 seeking independent review of a grievance arising from his discharge from employment by respondent Metropolitan Council, Metro Transit Division (MTC). Relator asserts that BMS erred by determining that section 179A.25 does not apply because relator's employment was governed by a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) with a grievance procedure that included independent review, even though relator's union elected not to pursue independent review of his discharge. We affirm.

         FACTS

         Relator Thomas Ruffenach is a former bus operator for MTC. As an employee of MTC, Ruffenach was a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1005 (the union), which had a CBA with MTC. The CBA states that the union is "the sole collective bargaining representative of all its employees covered by this Agreement . . . on all questions and grievances . . . affecting such employees." The CBA establishes a three-step grievance procedure applicable to discipline or discharge decisions. First, the union may file a written grievance with MTC, meet with an MTC representative, and receive a written response. Second, the union may appeal MTC's written response, meet again with MTC, and receive a second written response. Third, if the grievance is not resolved by the first two steps, the union may submit the grievance to an arbitrator.

         With respect to Ruffenach's discharge, the union followed the first two steps of the grievance procedure, but elected not to pursue arbitration. Ruffenach then filed a petition with BMS seeking independent review of his grievance under Minn. Stat. § 179A.25. BMS dismissed the petition, concluding that, because Ruffenach had access to a grievance procedure as required by Minn. Stat. § 179A.20, subd. 4 ...


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