City of Lawrence asks for summary judgment in Teamsters lawsuit; formerly cooperative declarant pulls out due to ‘continued fear of retaliation’

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

City of Lawrence workers affiliated with Teamsters Local Union No. 696, joined by folks affiliated with a handful of other unions, demonstrate outside Lawrence City Hall Tuesday, June 20, 2023.

The City of Lawrence has requested a judgment in its favor in a lawsuit filed by the union representing the city’s solid waste and Municipal Services and Operations employees, and a formerly cooperative declarant in the case has withdrawn for “continued fear of retaliation by the city.”

Last week, the city filed a motion for summary judgment — a decision based on a matter of law without the need for a full trial — in the case. As the Journal-World has reported, city employees represented by Teamsters Local Union No. 696 allege that city officials obstructed efforts to process grievances, refused to discuss working conditions in good faith and seemed to take a number of actions to retaliate against an employee for filing a grievance days before.

That suit was filed nearly a year ago, and the case has been set for a bench trial since early 2024. The trial was previously scheduled for August, but its start date has since been pushed back to Sept. 23.

In a memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment, the city seeks to dismiss all of the claims in the suit. In part, the memorandum claims that the union doesn’t have a right to seek legal recourse within its grievance procedure, rendering the lawsuit “foreclosed by the express terms of the contracts between the parties.”

“Additionally, after exhaustion of a multi-step grievance procedure, the procedure terminates with a decision of the city manager which the (memoranda of understanding) provide ‘shall be final and subject to no further appeal,'” the memorandum reads.

Another filing from the Teamsters’ end, also submitted last week, asks for a voluntary dismissal of four claims from the suit due to a claimant backing out from participating.

Those claims include specific instances where the Teamsters allege the city violated its ordinance on unionized staff because it “interfered with, coerced and/or circumvented the right of the union and its bargaining members to enforce the terms of the (memoranda of understanding),” “refused to discuss working conditions in good faith” and “discriminated against an employee” due to their allowable employee organization activities.

One claim requested for dismissal alleges that the city discriminated against one city employee in particular, including allegedly requiring him to paint tanks in the rain and watch 40 hours of unrelated training videos, after he filed a grievance just days before.

“The plaintiff submits that the current loss of a cooperative witness who is necessary to demonstrate certain claims provides proper cause for dismissing those (four) claims in the petition,” the dismissal filing reads.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.