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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An arbitration award that is rational and which neither violates strong public policy nor exceeds the power of the arbitrator may not be vacated by the courts


An arbitration award that is rational and which neither violates strong public policy nor exceeds the power of the arbitrator may not be vacated by the courts
New York Finger Lakes Region Police Officers Local 195 of Council 82, AFSCME, AFL-CIO (City of Auburn), 2013 NY Slip Op 00844, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Finger Lakes Region Police Officers Local 195 appealed Supreme Court's rejection of its petition to vacate an arbitration award in which the arbitrator had determined that the City of Auburn had not violated the terms of the relevant collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when it terminated the employment of one of the members of the Local.

The Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s ruling, explaining that "[a]n arbitration award may be vacated if it is irrational, violates a strong public policy, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power*" Here, and notwithstanding the Local’s arguments to the contrary, the Appellate Division concluded that the arbitrator's interpretation of the CBA was not irrational, "nor did the arbitrator alter the terms of the CBA based on his interpretation of its terms so as to exceed his authority."

Citing Communication Workers of Am., Local 1170 v Town of Greece, 85 AD3d 1668, leave to appeal denied 18 NY3d 802, the Appellate Division noted that an arbitrator is required to interpret and apply the terms of a CBA and while another entity could have applied a different construction to the relevant provision of the agreement, in this instance “it cannot be stated that the arbitrator gave a completely irrational construction to the provision in dispute and, in effect, exceeded [his] authority by making a new contract for the parties."

* §7511 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules sets out a number additional reasons that permit a court to set aside an arbitrator’s award such as a finding of corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award; the partiality of an arbitrator appointed as a neutral,[except where the award was by confession], or the failure to follow procedures set out in Article 75 unless the party seeking to vacate the award on such grounds continued with the arbitration with notice of the defect[s] without objection.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_00844.htm

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