STATE OF WISCONSIN
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Eau Claire County,
General Teamsters Union Local No. 662,
Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission,
[Decision No. 29131-D]
[NOTE: This document was re- keyed by WERC. Original pagination has been
APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Eau Claire County: PAUL
J. LENZ, Judge.
Reversed and cause remanded with directions.
Before Cane, C.J., Myse, P.J., and Hoover, J.
MYSE, P.J. General Teamsters Union Local Number 662 (union)
appeals a judgment
permanently enjoining the Wisconsin Employment Relations
Commission (WERC) from acting on the union's prohibited practice complaint. The
alleges the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department (County) refused to arbitrate deputy
R. Rizzo's termination, as the collective bargaining agreement between the County and the
requires. The union contends that the court erred when it concluded that §59.52(8)(c),
creates the exclusive forum to challenge discipline and termination disputes, and that
collective bargaining agreement providing arbitration for such disputes was null and void.
we conclude that ch. 59, Stats., does not establish the exclusive forum for appealing
termination determinations, the collective bargaining agreement providing for arbitration of
disputes is valid and enforceable. Therefore, we reverse the judgment and remand with
deny the County's request for an injunction.
The parties stipulated to the relevant facts giving rise to this dispute. The
the union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to
The agreement requires just cause for discipline, including termination, and provides for a
procedure culminating in the arbitration of a disciplinary or termination dispute. Rizzo was
by the collective bargaining agreement. The County has established a civil service system
§59.07(20), Stats., 1993-94, and, under that system, the County's personnel committee
acts as the
civil service commission for making just cause determinations. Both §59.52(8)(b),
Stats., and §4.01
of the collective bargaining agreement provide that no law enforcement employee may be
without just cause.
The committee issued a decision to terminate Rizzo and notified him of his
appeal rights to circuit court pursuant to §59.52(8)(c), Stats. Rizzo did not file a
appeal but, instead, filed a grievance with
the sheriff and the personnel committee, pursuant to the collective bargaining
the just cause determination. The sheriff denied the grievance, but the committee never met
consider Rizzo's grievance. Instead, the County informed Rizzo that it refused to utilize the
arbitration provisions of the grievance procedure, contending that a discharged employee's
remedy was an appeal to the circuit court.
The union then filed a prohibited practices complaint with WERC alleging that
County had committed a prohibited practice by refusing to arbitrate in accordance with the
bargaining agreement. In response, the County filed a declaratory action seeking to enjoin
from exercising jurisdiction over the union's prohibited practice complaint. The court
issued a permanent injunction after determining that Rizzo's exclusive remedy for appealing
complaints of improper discipline or discharge was circuit court review pursuant to
The sole question presented is whether §59.52(8)(c), Stats., creates the
remedy for complaints involving the discipline or discharge of deputy sheriffs, rendering the
bargaining agreement's grievance procedure culminating in arbitration null and void.
dispute involves interpretation of a statute, it is reviewed as a question of law without
the trial court's determination. Aiello v. Village of Pleasant
Prairie, 206 Wis.2d 68, 70 556 N.W.2d
697, 699 (1996). Ascertaining legislative intent is the goal of statutory interpretation.
Setagord, 211 Wis.2d 397, 406, 565 N.W.2d 506, 509 (1997).
We begin with the statute's plain
language. Id. at 406, 565 N.W.2d at 510. If
the legislative intent can be determined from the clear
and unambiguous language of the statute itself, the statute's terms will be applied in
the statute's plain language. In re J.A.L., 162 Wis.2d
940, 962, 471 N.W.2d 493,
502 (1991). Only if there is ambiguity do we resort to rules of construction and
in an effort to determine legislative intent. Id. "A
statute is ambiguous when it is capable of being
understood in two or more different senses by reasonably well-informed persons."
Wis.2d at 406, 565 N.W.2d at 510.
Section 59.52(8)(c), Stats., provides:
If a law enforcement employee of the county is dismissed, demoted,
suspended or suspended and demoted by the civil service commission
or the board under the system established under par. (a), the person
dismissed; demoted, suspended or suspended and demoted may appeal
from the order of the civil service commission or the board to the
circuit court by serving written notice of the appeal on the secretary
of the commission or the board within 10 days after the order is filed.
Within 5 days after receiving written notice of the appeal, the
commission or the board shall certify to the clerk of the circuit court
the record of the proceedings, including all documents, testimony and
minutes. The action shall then be at issue and shall have precedence
over any other cause of a different nature pending in the court, which
shall always be open to the trial thereof. The court shall upon
application of the accused or of the board or the commission fix a date
of trial which shall not be later than 15 days after the application
except by agreement. The trial shall be by the court and upon the
return of the board or the commission, except that the court may
require further return or the taking and return of further evidence by
the board or the commission. The question to be determined by the
court shall be: Upon the evidence is there just cause, as described in
par. (b), to sustain the charges against the employee? No cost shall be
allowed either party and the clerk's fees shall be paid by the county.
If the order of the board or the commission is reversed, the accused
shall be immediately reinstated and entitled to pay as though in
continuous service. If the order of the board or the commission is
sustained, it shall be final and conclusive.
We conclude that the legislature's intent as to whether §59.52(8)(c),
Stats., is the
exclusive appeal remedy for discipline or termination of deputy
sheriffs cannot be resolved based upon the statutory language itself. We first note that
does not explicitly provide that it is the sole remedy available to resolve appeal dismissals,
suspensions or demotions. The use of the term "may" in the statute is ambiguous. The
connote that there are other avenues of appeal available aside from the remedy provided by
statute. The term "may," however, may simply connote that the resort to circuit court
within the determination of the aggrieved party and is available but not mandated by the
provision. The aggrieved party might choose not to challenge the termination at all.
we conclude that the statue is ambiguous as to whether it provides the exclusive remedy
appealing disciplinary or termination disputes involving a deputy sheriff. Therefore, we may
to extrinsic evidence in construing the provisions of this statute to ascertain the legislature's
J.A.L., 162 Wis.2d at 962, 471 N.W.2d at 502.
We conclude for a variety of reasons that ch. 59, Stats., does not provide the
exclusive appeal remedy available to deputy sheriffs who have been disciplined or terminated
sheriff. First, as noted, the statute itself does not provide that it is the exclusive remedy to
such disputes. The absence of such language is significant because the chapter was recently
effective September 1, 1996.1 The legislature is presumed to know the
state of the law when it enacts
or amends legislation. Murphy v. LIRC, 183 Wis.2d
205, 218, 515 N.W.2d 487, 492-93 (Ct. App.
1994). In amending ch. 59, the legislature could have provided that that statute's appeal
are the exclusive remedy if it intended that result. The legislature's failure to specifically so
1 Chapter 59, Stats., was amended by 1995 Wis. Act 201. Among
the amendments, §59.07(20), Stats., was
amended and renumbered §59.52(8), Stats.,
acquiescence in the current state of the law which provided for the enforcement of
provisions as part of collective bargaining agreements. See State v. P.G.
Miron Constr. Co., 181
Wis.2d 1045, 1055, 512 N.W.2d 499, 504 (1994) (it has been the policy of the state and the
court to foster arbitration as an alternative to litigation).
We further note that WERC in Dodge
County, Decision No. 21574 (WERC, 4/84),
had determined that it was possible to harmonize ch. 59, Stats., appeal procedures and
bargaining agreements by treating the grievance arbitration forum as an alternative appeal
a circuit court appeal has not been taken. The conclusion that disciplinary appeal procedures
a mandatory subject of bargaining means that these provisions are valid methods of dispute
between an employer and an employee. WERC has special expertise in collective bargaining
agreement issues, so we accord its conclusion great weight. Racine Educ.
Ass'n v. WERC, 214
Wis.2d 353, 358, 571 N.W.2d 887, 890 (Ct. App. 1997).
We recognize that, wherever possible, interpretations of collective bargaining
must be harmonized with statutes that also bear on conditions of employment.
Policemen's Ass'n v. City of Glendale, 83 Wis.2d 90, 100-01,
264 N.W.2d 594, 600-01 (1978).
By harmonizing the collective bargaining agreement's arbitration provision with ch. 59,
WERC in Dodge County reasoned that the application
of the arbitration provision would not render
the statutory appeal process a nullity because ch. 59 would apply in full to those employees
not part of the collective bargaining agreement that contains dispute resolution provisions.
argument is persuasive and supports our conclusion that the provisions of ch. 59
are not exclusive, nor do they pre-empt an existing collective bargaining agreement.
A second and equally compelling reason to conclude that the legislature did not
the provisions of ch. 59, Stats., to be exclusive is the strong tradition both in this state and
throughout the nation favoring arbitration of employment related disputes. "The law of
favors agreements to resolve municipal labor disputes by final and binding arbitration."
School Dist. of West Salem, 108 Wis.2d 167, 172, 321 N.W.2d 225,
229 (1982). The Wisconsin
legislature specifically declared that Wisconsin's public policy regarding labor disputes is to
"encourage voluntary settlement through the procedures of collective bargaining." Section
National public policy is no less committed to arbitration as a means of
employment disputes. National labor legislation favors collective bargaining arbitration
as an alternative method of dispute resolution. "[T]he basic policy of national labor
to promote the arbitral process as a substitute for economic warfare."
Local 174, Teamsters,
Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, & Helpers v. Lucas Flour Co., 369
U.S. 95, 105 (1962). In addition,
the United States Supreme Court, consistent with national labor legislation, has long held that
policy favors arbitration as an alternative means of dispute resolution. See
United Steelworkers v.
Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 577-78
(1960); see also United Steelworkers v.
Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 596 (1960) (Federal
labor law is noteworthy for its
strong public policy in favor of the private resolution of labor disputes without resort to the
see also Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr.
Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983) (Any
doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration.).
intent to contravene not only the declared public policy of this state but also the
traditional public policy of this entire nation must not be so readily inferred in a statute that
ambiguous as to its intent. Given such strong statements of public policy favoring
arbitration, it is
difficult to conceive that the legislature would enact a statute directly in contravention of this
announced public policy without using specific explicit language to do so. Such a dramatic
in public policy should not have to be made by inference.
Additionally, our supreme court has addressed related issues in two cases,
County Sheriff's Dept. v. Employees Ass'n, 194 Wis.2d 265, 533
N.W.2d 766 (1995), and
Heitkemper v. Wirsing, 194 Wis.2d 182, 533 N.W.2d
770 (1995). While the precise issue before
this court was not directly raised in either of those cases, their results involved the
application of the
arbitration process provided in the collective bargaining agreement. In
Heitkemper, the supreme
court concluded that a sheriff's statutory powers pertaining to the appointment of deputy
be limited by a collective bargaining agreement between the county and the union.
Id. at 200-01, 533
N.W.2d at 778. In Brown County, the court
concluded that a sheriff's power to dismiss or not
reappoint a previously appointed deputy was not statutorily protected and therefore may be
to the collective bargaining agreement between the county and the labor union.
Id. at 273-74, 533
N.W.2d at 769. Although not conclusive, the resolution of both cases would be inconsistent
declaration now that the procedure those decisions mandated is null and void. Our supreme
decisions invoking a collective bargaining agreement's arbitration provisions on two
supports our conclusion that the agreement is valid and enforceable and has not been
nullity by ch. 59, Stats.
The County contends that City of Janesville v.
WERC, 193 Wis.2d 492, 535 N.W.2d
34 (Ct. App. 1995), is persuasive authority and should be followed in this case. We do not
In City of Janesville, we concluded that the collective
bargaining agreement with the city police
department, calling for arbitration of certain disciplinary decisions, was irreconcilable with
Stats., 1995-96, which provided for appeals from orders of the police and fire commission
to the circuit court. Id. at 511, 535 N.W.2d at 42.
Therefore, the union's proposal giving a
suspended officer the right to arbitrate the suspension rather than seek a hearing before the
not a mandatory subject of bargaining. Id.
City of Janesville concerned a city
police officer's right to arbitrate a disciplinary
matter and therefore was decided on an entirely different statute, which is specific to police
departments, §62.13(5), Stats. Chapter 62, Stats., is different in its scope and
the provisions of ch. 59, Stats. In particular, we note fundamental differences between the
responsible for making disciplinary determinations. Disputes resolved under ch. 62 are
an impartial body, the PFC, which operates independently of the city itself. Section
The PFC is comprised of citizen members who have no direct interest in the outcome of the
would a party to the dispute. Member appointment is designed so as to prevent the
operating as an agent of a city officer or police chief. Chapter 59, however, provides for
dispute resolution by one of the parties to the dispute itself. Sections 59.52(8)(b) and (c),
allow the disciplinary determinations to be made either by a civil service commission
or by the board.
In this instance, the decision to terminate Rizzo was made by the Eau Claire County Board's
Personnel Committee, whose membership is comprised of county board members
pursuant to §59.13(1), Stats. Disputes under ch. 59 are resolved by a party with
a direct interest
in the case, because the County is a signatory to the collective bargaining agreement and is
against whom the grievance is filed.
The importance of resolving employment disputes with an equitable process is
when one party to the dispute is vested with the authority to determine the dispute's
believe that such an inequitable process is inconsistent with the long-standing goal of
providing a fair
and equitable resolution of such grievances. See Naus v. Joint Sch. Dist.
No. 1, 76 Wis.2d 104, 110-11, 250 N.W.2d 725, 728-29 (1977). We
conclude that there is a significant difference in the dispute
resolution procedures identified in ch. 62, Stats., from those identified in ch. 59 Stats., and
court's decision in City of Janesville is therefore
inopposite to the issues that we address in this case.
Because we conclude that ch. 59 Stats., does not establish the exclusive forum
appeal of discipline or termination determinations, the collective bargaining agreement
arbitration of such disputes is valid and enforceable. Therefore, we reverse the judgment
with directions to the trial court to deny the County's request for an injunction.
By the Court.--Judgment reversed and cause remanded with
Recommended for publication in the official reports.
CANE, C.J. (dissenting). I respectfully dissent. Contrary to
conclusion, I conclude that under our court's rationale in City of Janesville
v. WERC, 193 Wis.2d
492, 535 N.W.2d 34 (Ct. App. 1995), the statutory termination and appeal procedures for
sheriffs under §§59.21 and 59.07(20), Stats.,1 are exclusive
and cannot be modified by a collective
In this discharge proceeding, the County followed the statutory procedures for
discharge under §59.07(20)(b), Stats., and the statutory just cause hearing was held
Committee on Personnel, acting as the civil service commission, on October 30, 1996. This
full evidentiary hearing. Witnesses testified and were cross-examined; all testimony was
and exhibits were received into evidence.
After the commission found just cause for the discharge, a written notice was
Rizzo informing him of his statutory right to appeal the decision to the circuit court. No
taken to the circuit court. Instead, Rizzo sought another just cause hearing before an
he filed the prohibitive practice complaint. The County, on the other hand, filed a
judgment action, thus joining the issue of whether the statutory circuit court review is the
exclusive remedy following an adverse decision of the commission. The circuit court agreed
County, and this appeal followed.
1 Chapter 59, Stats., was recodified by 1995 Wis. Act 201
September 1, 1996. Section 59.07(20)
was renumbered §59.52(8), Stats. Section 59.21 was renumbered §59.26, Stats.
See 1995 Wis. Act 201 §§134, 273.
It is important to observe that when enacting 1993 Wis. Act 53, effective
25, 1993, the legislature inserted nearly identical disciplinary and appeal procedures into ch.
Stats., for deputy sheriffs and into ch. 62, Stats., for police officers. The procedures parallel
other almost word for word. In both procedures, charges are filed before a governmental
must hold a public hearing to determine whether the statutory just cause standards have been
If the decision is adverse to the law enforcement officer, he or she may appeal to the circuit
If the circuit court sustains the order, it becomes final and conclusive.
As the County points out, before 1993 Wis. Act 53, no just cause due process
was required before the sheriff could discharge a deputy. Rather, before 1993 Wis. Act 53,
deputy's recourse was through the contractual grievance procedure which allowed up to forty
for the Committee on Personnel to review the sheriff's decision. If upheld, the decision
appealed to arbitration within twenty days. Consequently, under this procedure, the deputy
without pay for months before the process was completed.
The legislature addressed this situation in 1993 Wis. Act 53 by restricting the
authority to dismiss a deputy until the commission is convinced that just cause supports the
No longer can the sheriff exercise independent authority and dismiss a deputy without pay
arbitration. Now, until the commission files its written decision, the deputy's pay and
status is maintained. Also, the statute gives the deputy a speedy court review of the
decision. Interestingly, an attempt was made through Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to
Bill 66 to give deputies the option of appealing the commission's order to either the circuit
an arbitrator. However, that amendment was not incorporated into the final version
of 1993 Wis. Act 53. While the legislature refused to give this option in the Act,
Rizzo now attempts
to have this court do what the legislature specifically refused to do.
Obviously, when enacting 1993 Wis. Act 53, the legislature was not only
what it perceived as an inequitable discipline and discharge process for sheriff deputies and
officers, it also was making the process the same for all law enforcement officers by
nearly identical procedure for deputies in ch. 59, Stats., and police officers in ch. 62., Stats.
our rationale in City of Janesville becomes important,
especially if the procedures are to remain
identical as the legislature intended.
In City of Janesville, we specifically
rejected the notion that a dismissed police officer
could proceed with arbitration rather than participating in the just cause hearing before the
commission. Id. at 509-11, 535 N.W.2d at 41-42.
We held that because the commission was the
exclusive body to conduct the just cause hearing and only that decision was subject to court
allowing arbitration would render the statutory procedures meaningless.
Id. at 504-05, 535 N.W.2d
at 39-40. We concluded, therefore, that when there was an irreconcilable difference between
statutory procedure and the arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, the
controls. Id. at 509-11, 535 N.W.2d at 41-42.
The same rationale applies here. If the deputy can decline to seek court
review of the
commission's decision and instead obtain a de novo hearing before an arbitrator on the just
issue, the required statutory just cause
hearing and subsequent circuit court review become meaningless.2 I
would adopt our rationale in
City of Janesville and likewise conclude that there is
an irreconcilable difference between the
statutory procedure and the arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. A
provision that runs counter to an expressed statutory command is void and unenforceable.
Drivers, etc., Local No. 695 v. WERC, 121 Wis.2d 291,
297-99, 359 N.W.2d 174, 177-78 (Ct. App.
1984). Consequently, the statute must control.
As the trial court here correctly stated:
What the defendant seeks is for the court to adopt what the legislature has
and add the provision for independent de novo fact finding by the arbitrator.
Accordingly, the irreconcilable conflict between the arbitration provisions of the
collective bargaining agreement and the statutes renders the arbitration provisions
of the collective bargaining agreement invalid and void.
Both chs. 59 and 62, Stats., indicate that the deputy or officer "may" appeal
commission's decision to the circuit court. The word "may" simply means that the deputy or
"may" appeal the commission's decision to the circuit court for speedy review, nothing
more. By no
stretch of the imagination can this mean that the legislature preserved the route of arbitration
2 The County argues that we should adopt the rationale in
Milas v. Labor Ass'n, 214 Wis.2d 1, 571 N.W.2d
656 (1997), and conclude that Rizzo should be estopped from seeking arbitration after
participating in the statutory
just cause hearing and losing. The County argues persuasively that Rizzo knew from the
very beginning that the
commission's just cause hearing conducted was the statutory hearing and, therefore, he
cannot now seek arbitration
after losing. However, it appears that under the collective bargaining agreement the deputy
must first participate in
a just cause hearing before the Committee on Personnel, which in this case acted as the civil
service commission. It
is unclear whether Rizzo could have sought arbitration before participating in the
commission's just cause hearing.
Because I agree with the County's argument that the holding in City of
Janesville v. WERC, 193 Wis.2d 492, 535
N.W.2d 34 (Ct. App. 1995), applies equally to ch. 59, Stats., it is unnecessary to address its
contention that we should
apply the rationale in Milas and hold that Rizzo is
estopped from pursuing arbitration.
or officer participated in the statutory just cause hearing. Otherwise, why require the
hearing before the commission and circuit court review of that decision? To have a trial run
going before the arbitrator? Obviously not.
Also, I find unpersuasive the majority's conclusion that because the
body holding the just cause hearing in ch. 62, Stats., was the Police and Fire Commission
and in ch.
59, Stats., was the Committee on Personnel acting as the civil service commission, there is a
difference in the bodies sufficient to justify a conclusion that the legislature must have
allow arbitration after the required statutory just cause hearing in ch. 59. It is a distinction
a difference. Both commissions act independently in deciding whether there is just cause for
imposed discipline or discharge. Under both procedures, the circuit court may then review
commissions' decision, not the arbitrator's which if sustained becomes final and conclusive.
Unfortunately, because of the majority's holding, we now have two different
procedures relating to deputy sheriffs and police officers. Under the holding in
City of Janesville,
the statutory procedure in ch. 62, Stats., is the exclusive method of dealing with an officer
disciplined or removed. However, under the majority's holding in this case, ch. 59, Stats.,
is not the
exclusive method of dealing with a deputy who is disciplined or removed. This is not what
legislature intended when enacting 1993 Wis. Act 53 for both deputy sheriffs in ch. 59 and
officers in ch. 62.
I conclude that because Rizzo failed to seek circuit court review, the
order became final and conclusive. Thus, I agree with the circuit court's holding that WERC
enjoined from holding any proceedings on the prohibited practices complaint.