The Buckeye Institute Files Appeal in First Amendment Case Supporting School Guidance Counselor

Jan 19, 2022

Columbus, OH – On Wednesday, The Buckeye Institute filed its appeal brief in Kolkowski v. Ashtabula Area Teachers Association with Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals, urging the court to recognize that a union—which Barbara Kolkowski is not a member of—cannot force her to accept union legal representation to arbitrate her workplace grievance.

“The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Ohio case law, and Ohio’s collective bargaining statute are clear: employees have the right to choose their own counsel in a workplace arbitration,” said Jay R. Carson, senior litigator for The Buckeye Institute. “In a violation of Ms. Kolkowski’s rights, she is being forced to accept union legal representation in her contract dispute with the school district, despite the fact that she is not a member of the union. What makes this case even more absurd is Ms. Kolkowski is simply asking to be able to hire her own lawyer at her own expense—something that is guaranteed by Ohio law.”  

Ms. Kolkowski is a high school guidance counselor in Ashtabula, Ohio. When a dispute arose regarding payment under a supplemental contract, Ms. Kolkowski pursued remedies through the contractual grievance process, and—as required by her district’s collective bargaining agreement—requested that the union submit her grievance to arbitration. Because she is not a member of the union, Ms. Kolkowski also requested that she be able to hire her own private attorney at her own expense in order to pursue her claim in the arbitration proceedings, rather than relying upon a representative chosen by the union of which she is not a member. The union refused her request and denied Ms. Kolkowski her right to associate with and speak through her own counsel. The Buckeye Institute sued on behalf of Ms. Kolkowski to vindicate her right to have her own counsel.

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