Timothy Horvath was employed by the City of Westland, Michigan Police Department as a sergeant. On November 16, 2020, the City suspended Horvath for 84 hours for allegedly sexually harassing a fellow police officer. He was also required to take 40 hours of sexual harassment training and was removed from the lieutenant promotional list. The Westland Lieutenants and Sergeants Association filed a grievance on Horvath’s behalf challenging the discipline.
The grievance was denied by the City on or before February 9, 2021. On February 10, 2021, the Association notified Horvath that it would not be taking the grievance to arbitration. Thereafter, Horvath requested a hearing before the Association’s executive board. The Board denied Horvath’s appeal on March 16, 2021.
Horvath filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the City and the Association, claiming the Association had breached its duty of fair representation and that the City had wrongly disciplined him. The Michigan Employment Relations Commission dismissed Horvath’s claims, finding them untimely.
Adopting the decision of a hearing officer, the Commission found that under state law “no complaint shall issue based upon any unfair labor practice occurring more than six months prior to the filing of the charge with the Commission. The Commission has consistently held that the statute of limitations is jurisdictional and cannot be waived. The limitations period commences when Horvath knows or should have known of the acts constituting the unfair labor practice and has good reason to believe the acts were improper or done in an improper manner. The statute of limitations is not tolled by the attempts of an employee or a union to seek a remedy elsewhere, including the filing of a grievance, or while another proceeding involving the dispute is pending.
“There is no dispute that Horvath was disciplined by the City on November 16, 2020. Thereafter, the Association filed a grievance challenging the discipline and Horvath attempted to file a claim with the City’s civil service commission. On December 9, 2020, Horvath was notified that his civil service claim had been rejected as untimely. The City denied the grievance on or before February 9, 2021. On February 10, 2021, the Association informed Horvath that it would not be advancing the grievance to arbitration. All of these actions took place more than six months before Horvath filed his charges with the Commission on August 30, 2021. For that reason, the charges must be dismissed as untimely.
“In so holding, I find no merit to Horvath’s contention that the statute of limitations for his claim against the Association was tolled while he pursued the Association’s internal appeal process. It is well-established that an employee cannot file a civil complaint for breach of the duty of fair representation without first exhausting his or her internal union remedies. However, there is no such requirement for bringing an unfair labor practice under the collective bargaining laws. Despite having been given a full and fair opportunity to do so, Horvath has failed to meet his burden of proving that either Respondent violated the Act within the period of six months prior to the filing of the charges.”
City of Westland v. Timothy Horvath, 35 MPER ¶ 43 (Mich. ERC 2022).