The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a decision to be officially released next week, has ruled that a municipal employee’s hybrid duty of fair representation claim against his or her union and the employer , must be brought to the State Board of Labor Relations first, and not directly to Superior Court.

The case, Piteau v. Board of Education (download here), won’t win any awards for being the easiest decision to understand. 

But the crux of the matter addresses what forum (a court or a state labor board) an employee can claim that his union was not adequately representing him when he is also claiming that the employer breached the collective bargaining agreement.  These types of claims typically arise in the termination context; here, the plaintiff was terminated for allegedly gathered and then sold scrap metal from a school construction site in violation of employer rules. 

In this case, the court said that any attempt to circumvent the State Board of Labor Relations must fail because the Courts do not have jurisdiction over such claims and that its decision is backed up by both a statute and legislative history. 

The case will have little to no impact on private employers, but for municipalities, the case is an important one in ensuring that proper legal procedures are followed.