This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







Mike Ceola,





Torah Academy,




Filed August 17, 2004

Forsberg, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 03-04643



William F. Garber, Debra M. Corhouse, Education Minnesota, 41 Sherburne Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55103 (for appellant)


Corey L. Gordon, Shapiro Gordon, LLC, 1660 Highway 100 South, #340, Minneapolis, MN  55416 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Mike Ceola challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to compel arbitration under Minn. Stat. § 572.09 (2002).  Respondent Torah Academy (the Academy) refused to grieve Ceola’s claim that the Academy had violated the “just cause” provisions of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when it refused to permit him to rescind his resignation.

            On appeal, Ceola argues that the district court exceeded its authority when it addressed the merits of his claim and determined that his grievance was untimely under the CBA.  Because Ceola was effectively discharged when the Academy made it clear that it had accepted his resignation and because he failed to file his grievance within five days, as required by the terms of the parties’ CBA, we affirm.


            Minn. Stat. § 572.09(a) (2002) governs motions to compel arbitration and provides:

On application of a party showing [a collective bargaining] agreement . . . and the opposing party’s refusal to arbitrate, the court shall order the parties to proceed with arbitration, but if the opposing party denies the existence of the agreement to arbitrate, the court shall proceed summarily to the determination of the issue so raised and shall order arbitration if found for the moving party, otherwise, the application shall be denied.


“When a party brings a motion to compel arbitration, the district court asks (1) whether a valid arbitration agreement exists and (2) whether the dispute is within the scope of the arbitration agreement.  The district court may not examine the merits of the dispute when considering the motion.”  Lueth v. City of Glencoe, 639 N.W.2d 613, 617 (Minn. App. 2002) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Apr. 16, 2002).

            Issues involving the arbitrability of a grievance can be classified as either substantive or procedural:  substantive issues examine whether the subject matter is arbitrable, while procedural issues examine whether preliminary steps of the grievance procedure have been followed.  Millwrights Local 548, United Broth. Of Carpenters & Joiners, AFL-CIO v. Robt. J. Pugleasa Co., 419 N.W.2d 105, 107 (Minn. App. 1988).  Issues involving laches, waiver, or timeliness are considered procedural and are generally decided by the arbitrator rather than the district court.  City of Morris v. Duininck Bros., Inc., 531 N.W.2d 208, 210 (Minn. App. 1995).  A district court, however, “may consider a strictly procedural question as to the timeliness of a demand for arbitration . . . where no factual dispute exists and resolution of the issue would preclude all need for arbitration.”  Pugleasa, 419 N.W.2d at 108 (quoting Retail Delivery Drivers Local 588 v. Servomation Corp., 717 F.2d 475, 478 (9th Cir. 1983)).

            Ceola argues that the district court exceeded its authority because it decided the merits of the dispute.  In his July 25, 2002 grievance report, Ceola claimed that the grievance occurred on July 6, which is the date he received a letter from the Academy in which it “accepted” his June 28 resignation voicemail message, “release[d]” him from his “letter of intent” for the 2002-03 school year, and thanked him for giving it timely notice so that it could “begin interviewing other candidates for [his] position.”  Celoa attempted to rescind his resignation in another message left on July 2, several days after the June 28 resignation message. 

            The district court, however, determined that as of July 14, Ceola “could not have interpreted [the Academy’s] actions as anything but a discharge of employment.”  On July 14, the dean of the Academy called Ceola and reiterated that the Academy had accepted Ceola’s earlier oral resignation and had hired an attorney.  As the district court reasoned, at that point, Ceola “was told in no uncertain terms, that he was no longer employed” by the Academy and was thus “discharged” within the meaning of the CBA.  Ceola’s July 25 grievance was therefore untimely because not brought within five days after July 14.[1]

            Because the relevant facts are undisputed and because resolution of the issue precludes all need for arbitration, the district court did not err in determining that Ceola’s grievance was not timely under the terms of the CBA.  We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of Ceola’s motion to compel arbitration.



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Ceola suggests that the time limits should be calculated differently during the summer months because the grievance procedure of the CBA refers to “working” days, which Ceola claims are days when a teacher actually works.  But the CBA specifically defines a “working day” as “all week days not designated as holidays by state law or religious laws.”  We therefore reject Ceola’s suggestion that the five-day limit should apply only to days when a teacher works.