Hamilton Cnty. Ed. Ass'n. v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Educ., No. 15-5749 (6th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
HCEA was recognized under the Tennessee Education Professional Negotiations Act (EPNA) as the exclusive representative of Hamilton County Board of Education professional employees. In 2011, HCEA and the Board entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), to expire in June 2014. While this agreement was in effect, Tennessee enacted the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act, replacing EPNA. PECCA would not govern the parties’ relationship until the expiration of their existing agreement. HCEA and the Board entered into the latest version of their CBA under EPNA in September 2013. PECCA created a new category: “management team” members, including principals and assistant principals, no longer considered “professional employees” entitled to participate in concerted activities as part of professional employee organizations. PECCA also made it unlawful for a professional employee organization to “[c]oerce or attempt to intimidate professional employees who choose not to join a professional employee organization.” Communications following HCEA’s September 2013 monthly meeting resulted in a Board letter, requesting that HCEA “refrain from … negative or coercive statements.” HCEA filed suit, alleging violation of EPNA and the First Amendment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment favoring the Board. EPNA claims were not rendered moot by PECCA’s intervening effective date, but the letter did not violate EPNA. It contained no threat of reprisal and did not significantly burden HCEA’s expressive activity.