A four-year court case regarding a contract violation by the New Milford Board of Education against its teachers ended last Friday with a ruling in favor of the teachers. In a unanimous decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the New Milford Board of Education violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement by improperly extending the workday for teachers on multiple occasions.
The decision requires the town to compensate members of the New Milford Education Association for 20 hours of additional time they were required to work without pay.
“This is a huge victory for us and for the teaching profession, and a testament to the incredible power of our union and expertise of CEA’s legal team,” said New Milford Education Association President Kim Patella. “This case has proven that regardless of the number of times a board tries to get a ruling appealed, when we stand together as a unit, part of something we believe in, which is our union, we can prevail.”
And, Patella said, New Milford teachers couldn’t be happier with the outcome, “While it has been a long, arduous process, after more than four years, our teachers will be receiving the pay they deserve for the extra hours they were required to work.”
The dispute began in 2015, when the union filed a grievance alleging that the New Milford Board of Education had violated the collective bargaining agreement by extending the teacher workday and scheduling a number of open house and similar evening events. An arbitrator ruled in the union’s favor, but the board filed an application to vacate the grievance arbitration award in Litchfield Superior Court. The Superior Court ruled in favor of the union. Despite two rulings against them, the New Milford Board of Education refused to accept the loss and instead attempted to get the decision reversed, and ultimately brought the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
“This case should never have gone to the Supreme Court,” said CEA Legal Counsel Adrienne DeLucca. “An independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, and it should have ended there. It caused four years of declining teacher morale and confidence in the Board of Education as well as the loss of thousands of dollars that could have been used for educational needs of the district.”
“If you have never read a court ruling that is 100 percent in favor of the union, read the Supreme Court ruling in this case,” said CEA UniServ Representative Tom Kennedy, who filed the original grievance four years ago, and has continued to work and support the teachers in New Milford to ensure their rights are protected.
Patella added, “We are truly grateful to the CEA legal counsel of Attorneys Adrienne DeLucca and Marty Gould, and UniServ Representative Tom Kennedy. They never gave up, and neither did our dedicated members. We are moving forward as an even stronger Association, and we are ready to work with the Board of Education as we continue to enrich the lives of the students in New Milford.”