Law School Case Brief
Martin v. Montezuma-Cortez Sch. Dist. - RE-1, 841 P.2d 237 (Colo. 1992)
The Industrial Relations Act, 3B Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-1, guarantees that there is no absolute right to strike by public employees in Colorado. For so long as the director has jurisdiction of a labor dispute, several tiers of substantive and procedural conditions on the right to strike preclude the dangers otherwise inherent to an absolute right to strike. These conditions determine when public employees may exercise their right to strike. The Industrial Relations Act, specifically 3B Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-1-125, provides that once the director takes jurisdiction of a labor dispute, the status quo shall be maintained.
Petitioner teachers sought review of decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the lower court that a strike was legal but affirmed a decision that termination of their employment did not violate their due process rights. Respondent school district sought review of grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioners on the ground that petitioners were not liable in tort to respondent.
The school district argued that the strike was illegal because the teachers did not have the right to strike as public employees and that it was entitled to damages for their tortious interference in negotiations with other teachers. The teachers argued that the appeals court erred when it determined that the school district's termination of their employment did not violate their due process rights, and that the school district's failure to follow the procedures of the Teacher Tenure Act, 9 Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 22-63-101, 22-63-118, was harmless error.
Did the teachers have a right to strike?
The Supreme Court of Colorado reversed in part, concluding that the teachers had a qualified right to strike under The Industrial Relations Act, specifically, 3B Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 8-2-101, 8-1-126 (1986). The strike was lawful, therefore the teachers were not liable in tort to the school district. A strike per se did not constitute abandonment of the employment relationship between the teachers and the school district. The school district's failure to comply with dismissal procedures of the Teacher Tenure Act was not harmless error. The court remanded the case court of appeals with directions to return it to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion.
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