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Friday, January 25, 2013

Unless meeting specified time requirements to advance a grievance to the next step is expressly set out in a collective bargaining agreement, timeliness is an issue for the arbitrator to resolve

Unless meeting specified time requirements to advance a grievance to the next step is expressly set out in a collective bargaining agreement, timeliness is an issue for the arbitrator to resolve
Matter of Board of Educ. of The Rondout Val. Cent. Sch. Dist. (Rondout Val. Fedn. of Teachers), 2012 NY Slip Op 08862, Appellate Division, Third Department

The relevant collective bargaining agreement (CBA) spelled out time frames for the processing of grievances and included a clause stating "[t]he failure on the part of [Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers] to advance a pending grievance to the next stage within the time periods set forth herein shall constitute an abandonment of the grievance."

Certain grievances proceeded through the initial procedural stages of the grievance procedure set out in the CBA and ultimately the Federation filed demands for arbitration of these grievances with American Arbitration Association. Contending that these grievances were not processed consistent with the time requirements spelled out in the CBA and were thus “abandoned,” the school district filed a petition pursuant to CPLR 7503 (b) seeking to stay the arbitrations.

Supreme Court granting the district's petition for a stay, holding that “the submission of a timely demand for arbitration constituted a condition precedent to the filing for arbitration” and the Federation appealed.

The Appellate Division vacated the lower court’s decision with respect to the Federation’s demands for arbitration. The court explained that “Where a collective bargaining agreement contains a broad arbitration clause, the question of whether a party has complied with the procedural requirements of the grievance process — such as time limitations — is to be resolved by an arbitrator absent ‘a provision expressly making compliance with the time limitations a condition precedent to arbitration.’"

Rejecting the school district’s argument that the provision in the CBA's specifying that non-adherence to time limits set out in the CBA constituted an "abandonment" of the grievances and thus precluded advancing them to arbitration, the Appellate Division held that the CBA did not expressly condition access to arbitration on adherence to the time limits set out in the grievance procedure.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that the question of whether the Federation’s grievances were timely filed is a question of "procedural arbitrability" to be resolved by an arbitrator.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_08862.htm

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