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Thursday, June 30, 2011

In processing a grievance all procedural steps must be satisfied


In processing a grievance all procedural steps must be satisfied
Brown v Nassau County, 288 AD2d 216

The lesson in the Brown case: failure to follow the steps set out in a collective bargaining agreement's grievance procedure in a timely fashion may prove fatal to seeking further relief.

Larry Brown filed an out-of-title work grievance. When he and his union attempted to appeal the Step 3 determination of the Nassau County Office of Labor Relations [OLR], OLR rejected his grievance, saying that it was untimely. The Appellate Division agreed.

Brown's grievance was filed in accordance with a “five-step grievance procedure” set out in the collective bargaining agreement. OLR denied Brown's grievance at Step three and it appears that neither Brown nor the union proceeded to a Step four “advisory appeal” as set out Section 23-1.4 of the agreement.

According to the decision, the union made an untimely request that the County “schedule ... an arbitration date” following the County's unwillingness to stipulate to settle the dispute in accordance with the recommendation of a mediator.

The court noted that there was no proof that the County, in contrast to Brown and the union, the parties aggrieved by the Step 3 determination, was responsible for initiating the procedure at Step Four, or for the scheduling of the arbitration procedures.

Brown and the union sought a court order to compel arbitration of the grievance. The Appellate Division said that since there is no evidence that either Brown or the union ever timely “proceed[ed] to an advisory appeal” to either of the two alternative arbitral forums described in Section 23-1.4 of the parties' agreement, it agreed with the Supreme Court that, in light of this failure to complete the five-step grievance procedure, neither Brown nor the union could sue the County directly.

The simple answer: Had either Brown or the union followed the time requirement for perfecting the appeal to the next step, Step 4, the matter would have been subject to arbitration as permitted under the agreement.

Brown and the union also contended that they should not have been required to complete all five steps of the grievance procedure, because proceeding through all such steps would have been futile. The Appellate Division rejected this argument as being “without merit.”

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