July 22, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Contract Provisions Ambiguous, So Pertinent Provisions Properly Submitted to Jury

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in School District No. 1 v. Denver Classroom Teachers Association on Monday, January 14, 2019.

Labor and Employment—Collective Bargaining—Contract Interpretation.

A dispute arose between a school district and a teachers’ association regarding whether, pursuant to the terms of several collective bargaining agreements, the school district was required to compensate teachers for attending English Learning Acquisition (ELA) training. The trial court found the agreements ambiguous and asked the jury to interpret them. The jury, in turn, returned a verdict for the teachers’ association. The school district appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed.

The supreme court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals, albeit on slightly different grounds. The court acknowledged that the agreements contain a management rights clause, which grants the school district control over all lawful rights and authority not expressly addressed in the agreements. But because the “In-Service Education” provision in the agreements is fairly susceptible to being interpreted as expressly requiring payment for ELA training, the court cannot conclude that the management rights clause allows the school district to refuse to pay for such training. Therefore, the court agreed with the court of appeals that the pertinent contract provisions are ambiguous and that their interpretation was correctly submitted as a factual issue to the jury.

Summary provided courtesy ofColorado Lawyer.

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