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January 10, 2011

One party to a collective bargaining agreement cannot compel arbitration of a dispute unless the agreement explicitly so provides

One party to a collective bargaining agreement cannot compel arbitration of a dispute unless the agreement explicitly so provides
Matter of Onondaga Community Coll. v Onondaga Community Coll. Fedn. of Teachers & Adm'rs Aft, Local 1845, 2010 NY Slip Op 09835, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

It is “black letter law” that "A party to an agreement may not be compelled to arbitrate its dispute with another unless the evidence establishes the parties' clear, explicit and unequivocal' agreement to arbitrate."

Citing God's Battalion of Prayer Pentecostal Church, Inc. v Miele Assoc., LLP, 6 NY3d 371, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court was correct when it granted Onondaga Community College’s Article 75 motion to stay the arbitration of a grievance filed by an employee whose employment was terminated during his probationary period.

Here, said the court, the employee, a software systems administrator, was terminated within three months after he was hired, “while he undisputedly was a probationary employee.” As the controlling collective bargaining agreement [CBA], explained the Appellate Division, “explicitly excludes the termination of employment of probationary administrators” from the grievance procedures set out in the CBA, including the right to arbitration, Supreme Court correctly granted the College’s motion to stay the arbitration.*

The Appellate Division rejected the Federations characterization of the grievance as “one challenging [the College’s] failure to evaluate the employee in question after nine months pursuant to Article IV of the CBA….”

In the words of the court, “The heart of this dispute is the termination of employment, and any failure by [Onondaga Community College] to comply with the evaluation procedures … is irrelevant in view of the CBA provision rendering arbitration unavailable to probationary administrators who are terminated.”

* The collective bargaining agreement provided that administrators "serving in a probationary period other than a probationary period attendant to and resulting from promotions shall not have [any] right, relief, or access to contest disciplinary action, including dismissal from employment, under the grievance procedure contained herein."

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_09835.htm


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