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July 06, 2011

Unless the CBA so provides, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is not tolled because a contract grievance procedure must be exhausted before initiating litigation


Unless the CBA so provides, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is not tolled because a contract grievance procedure must be exhausted before initiating litigation
Civil Serv. Employees Assn., Inc. v County of Nassau, 2011 NY Slip Op 05649, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Civil Service Employees Association and a number of the employees in the collective bargaining unit it represents[CSEA] initiated a lawsuit alleging that Nassau County breached a provision in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) executed by the County and CSEA.

CSEA contended that Nassau alleged that Nassau had improperly placed employees promoted in calendar years 1999 and 2000 in the incorrect step or grade on the relevant graded salary schedule. Although both Nassau and CSEA moved for summary judgment,  Supreme Court denied the County's motion but granted CSEA’s cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, and directed an inquest on the issue of damages.

Nassau appealed.

The Appellate Division, noting that an arbitrator previously denied CSEA’s request for a finding that the County had breached the CBA with respect to its handling of pre-2001 promotions, said that advisory determination never became binding on CSEA and thus its complaint was not barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

However, said the court, Nassau was correct when it contended that the six-year statute of limitations for an action upon a contractual obligation applies to CSEA’s action. Further, the statute of limitations was not tolled to allow CSEA to go through the internal grievance process, as they were required to do pursuant to the CBA's terms.

The Appellate Division ruled that “In the absence of a provision in the CBA providing for the tolling of the statute of limitations while [CSEA] exhausted the grievance process, the mere fact that the CBA required [CSEA] to exhaust the grievance process before filing suit in state court did not toll the statute of limitations,” citing Nassau Ch. Civ. Serv. Empls. Assn., Local 830, AFSCME, Local 1000, AFL-CIO v County of Nassau, 154 Misc 2d 545,  affd 203 AD2d 267.

Accordingly, because the complaint was filed on April 11, 2006, CSEA may only attempt to recover breach of contract damages for acts occurring on or after April 11, 2000. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_05649.htm

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