OHPELRA Amicus: Binder and Butterfield v. Cuyahoga County
AMICUS BRIEF FILED ON BEHALF OF CUYAHOGA COUNTY
OHPELRA recently partnered with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association and the Ohio Municipal League to file an Amicus Brief on behalf of Cuyahoga County, Ohio in the matter of Binder, et al., and Butterfield, et al., vs. Cuyahoga County. Cuyahoga County is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to accept its appeal of an 8th District decision upholding the trial court’s authorization of an employee class action against Cuyahoga County based upon a “reduction in pay” argument under Ohio’s civil service law that should have been presented to either the State Personal Board of Review or Cuyahoga County’s Civil Service Commission under Ohio’s civil service statute.
This case arose from the creation of a charter form of government in Cuyahoga County in 2009. As part of the charter government, some employees were reclassified and, going forward, all county employees were paid for a 40 hour work week (an 8 hour day) which included a one hour paid lunch. Prior to the charter form of government, county employees were paid for a 35 hour work week (7 hours per day with an unpaid lunch period). Multiple lawsuits were filed by or on behalf of employees with the most recent case combining four lawsuits and requesting to be certified as a class action. Cuyahoga County objected to the trial court’s ability to certify a class action on the basis that the trial court is without jurisdiction because “reduction in pay” claims under Ohio’s civil service law are required to proceed through a proper civil service commission. The trial court rejected Cuyahoga County’s argument and certified the class action. Cuyahoga County appealed to the 8th District but the 8th District upheld the trial court’s decision.
In the amicus brief, Brad Bennett, Esq. with Bricker and Eckler (OHPELRA sponsor) indicated the following: “The concern is that, unless overturned, this will set a bad and costly precedent if Courts can suddenly start allowing employees to bypass the proper administrative agency and, instead, seek costly class actions against counties and cities on what really are civil service commission matters. Because the members of the above amici curiae are charged, in part, with ensuring that public employers comply with their obligations under employment laws, including Ohio’s civil service law, they have a vested interest in legal opinions that substantially impact well-established principles surrounding Ohio’s civil service system - particularly opinions that expand the subject-matter jurisdiction of trial courts and create new causes of action not previously contemplated by R.C. 124.34. Amici curiae are deeply concerned about the dangerous precedent and serious impact on Ohio’s civil service system if, as the Eighth District has held, trial courts throughout Ohio have authority to strip the State Personnel Board of Review (“SPBR”) and civil service commissions of their exclusive jurisdiction under R.C. 124.34 and can certify class action lawsuits for matters that never proceeded through the administrative process required by R.C.124.34. Such a holding undermines the SPBR and civil service commissions and will unduly increase the costs and burden on Ohio counties and their citizens.”
It remains to be seen how this will be decided, but we hope for a favorable outcome for state and local governments in Ohio.
Visit http://sc.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/#/caseinfo/2019/1232 for more information.