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The Adjunct Grievant’s Complaints About Union Counsel and the “No Duty” Theory

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  • The Adjunct Grievant’s Complaints About Union Counsel and the “No Duty” Theory

    I missed my opportunity to sue the union after they “represented” me in a grievance. I had grieved the discipline Rider University (Lawrenceville, New Jersey) imposed on me at the behest of a tenured full professor. The tenured full-time professor sent an email letter to the dean claiming that because of a “glitch” in the course administration system, I had gained unauthorized access to her course web page and used her syllabus without her permission to teach a course in her place while she was on sabbatical. The dean imposed a two-semester suspension on me and after 16 years as an adjunct professor at Rider, I was never invited to teach there again.

    The Union grieved the discipline and ultimately convinced me to settle the grievance and accept the discipline “without admission of wrongdoing”.
    I subsequently sued the tenured professor for libel alleging her “no permission” story was an abject falsehood. Some 30 months after the dean imposed the discipline, when she was finally placed under oath, the tenured full-time professor admitted the truth – she herself printed out the syllabus when the department head requested it for the express purpose of having her replacement use it! See
    Also, about the same time I found out that the Union in a secret email copied to their counsel, had promised not to use against her the fact that she had allowed the department to use her syllabus as the model syllabus for the course.

    When I found out about the secret email, I attempted to join the union in the suit for Denial of Fair Representation (DFR), the legal phrase for union disloyalty. I was only then confronted by two inconvenient truths – (1) the statute of limitations on DFR complaints is only 6 months; (2) a grievant cannot sue union counsel for breach of duty unless the union joins the suit. My attempt to join the union therefore failed. The lesson to be learned here is to sue the union sooner rather than later if you suspect wrongdoing.

    I am now relegated to charging the union counsel with ethical violations – failure to disclose his conflict of interest and acting on that conflict to my detriment during the grievance. His defense? That in a grievance only the union is the client. Therefore, he owed no duty to me in the grievance. He is literally immune to complaints from the grievant. This “No Duty” defense is currently before the District IV ethics panel in New Jersey (IV-2019-0006E KATZ, JAMES p. 7): )
    The case is replete with an expert union-side labor lawyer testifying that the grievant is not a client. There is no ethics expert to testify that, regardless of whether I was a client, union counsel had a duty to disclose his conflict of interest and give me the opportunity to hire my own counsel. For my sake and those similarly situated, I hope to defeat this defense.

    I would be most interested in the degree to which the “No Duty/Immunity” defense exists among union-side labor lawyers and if there have been other experiences with it.

    Last edited by Grievant; 01-28-2021, 04:37 AM.
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