CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has issued a memorandum decision finding that Kanawha Circuit Court did not err in finding that a man did not timely file a grievance with the Pocahontas County Board of Education.

In the Sept. 5 memorandum decision, the Supreme Court  found that the circuit court’s order is appropriate and that Pocahontas BOE was right to deny a grievance filed regarding the board’s modification of contract terms.

Jaime C. Walker applied for two jobs with Pocahontas as a mechanic and a chief mechanic, both of which were set oyt as 240-day positions to be effective July 1, 2013. Walker was interviewed for both jobs and, during the course of the interview process, he inquired as to whether the positions would be increased to 261-day positions or if they would remain as listed.

The superintendent stated the positions would not be changed. Walker later withdrew his applications for both positions and two other men were hired.

Sometime after Justin Tyler and Ian Bennett accepted the positions, the men appeared before the board and requested their contracts be increased to 261-day positions. The requests were then placed on the board’s July 2013 meeting agenda and were approved.

In August 2013, Walker filed a Level One grievance challenging the modification of the contract terms after they were filled. The board denied the grievance.

In September 2013, Walker appealed the denial to Level Two of the grievance procedure, and, following an unsuccessful mediation, he then appealed to Level Three in January 2014.

Following a hearing, the administrative law judge issued a decision in July 2015 in which the judge found that Walker demonstrated an interest in the posted positions and had standing to challenge the change in the contract terms as a misleading notice of the vacancies to applications and potential applicants. The board appealed the ALJ’s decision to the circuit court.

By order entered on June 10, 2016, the circuit court reversed the ALJ’s decision and found that the petitioner’s grievance was not timely filed as required by West Virginia code and that he did not have a valid excuse for the untimely filing, according to the decision.

Walker then appealed the circuit court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court found no error in the circuit court’s order reversing the ALJ’s decision.

“Here, after hiring Mr. Tyler and Mr. Bennett, the BOE altered their employment contract terms based on the ‘compelling reasons’ as to why their contract terms should be increased given the nature of their job duties,” the decision states. “As such, respondent exercised its statutory authority to increase the employment contract terms pursuant to West Virginia Code § 18A-4-19(b). Therefore, we find no error.”

W.Va. Supreme Court case number: 16-0659

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