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4/21/2012 1:51:00 PM
Lebanon teachers win unfair labor practices suit against school board

Rod Rose, Lebanon Reporter Assistant Managing Editor

A mediator has ruled that the Lebanon school board committed two unfair labor practices by excluding a teachers union from participating in the selection of an insurance carrier in October 2010.

The school board committed “failure to bargain by failing to provide information in a timely manner, and bypass (of the union),” Cynthia Stanley, an Indiana Education Employment Relations Board hearing examiner, said in her decision. Because neither side appealed her March 27 ruling, Stanley’s cease-and-desist verdict stands.

The Lebanon Classroom Teachers Association had complained that school administrators failed to present or withheld information about insurance benefits and premium costs that were needed during bargaining over health insurance coverage. Stanley heard from both sides at an all-day hearing Dec. 14.

Stanley upheld that complaint, with a caveat. The teachers had wanted to contact another insurance carrier, while the school district was already working with a company.

“Taking a second set of quotes and using a different consultant might have created confusion in the marketplace,” Stanley wrote, “but LCSC did not explain this well to LCTA.”

Pam Shelby, vice president of the LCTA, said by e-mail that the group “is very pleased with the outcome of the unfair labor practice lawsuit,” which was filed on Nov. 17, 2010.

“As we all know, poor health impacts the work place,” Shelby said. “For teachers it can have a direct impact on student learning and performance.”

“Now, LCTA will be able to actively participate in the insurance selection to better advocate for our teachers,” Shelby said. “It is unfortunate that a lawsuit had to be filed in order to participate in a guaranteed right of the association.”

“As a practical matter,” Lebanon Community School Corp. attorney Kent Frandsen said, “it means the teachers won on two issues, and the school won on another.”

Both sides have moved on, Frandsen said.

“We’ve since joined a trust for health insurance purchases,” he said. Several other school districts have joined LCSC in the Hoosier School Trust, effective Jan. 1. A board, including teacher representatives, is “going to try to figure out what’s the best plan for the dollars,” Frandsen said.

“The teachers are going to have participation in drafting of the plan benefits and coverages as members of the trust board,” he said. “The administration is not going to be solely in charge of defining or designing the health insurance program.”

“We learned from the ruling and move on,” Frandsen said.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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