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January 5, 2011

Arbitrator cannot add “implied contract terms” based on a past practice but, in contrast, may consider a past practice interpreting specific CBA terms

Arbitrator cannot add “implied contract terms” based on a past practice but, in contrast, may consider a past practice interpreting specific CBA terms
Matter of Monroe County Sheriff's Off. v Monroe County Deputy Sheriffs' Assn., Inc., 2010 NY Slip Op 09797, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

In a CPLR Article 75 proceeding seeking to vacate an arbitration award Supreme Court held that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority by adding an implied contract term to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) based on the Sheriff Department’s past practice.

The Appellate Division agreed, explaining that while "[p]ast practices may be considered by an arbitrator . . . when interpreting a specific contractual provision . . .[, a]n arbitrator may not rewrite a contract by adding a new clause based upon past practices," citing Hunsinger v Minns, 197 AD2d 871.

On the other hand, said the court, it agreed with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association that Supreme Court was incorrect in concluding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by determining that Sheriff’s Office’s denial of paid release time requests submitted by members of Association t to prepare for upcoming contract negotiations with the Office was unreasonable.

The court noted that the CBA provided that requests for "[r]elease time for union business shall not be unreasonably denied" by the Sheriff’s Office.

Accordingly, it ruled that the arbitrator determination that that the denial of the Association’s requests “to keep overtime costs down” was unreasonable absent evidence of some "financial exigency."

In addition, the Appellate Division said that it deemed that the arbitrator's reasonableness determination was not irrational inasmuch as "[a]n arbitration award must be upheld when the arbitrator offer[s] even a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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