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May 15, 2013

Where there is broad arbitration clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the arbitrator rather than the court is to determine if the subject of the dispute is arbitrable


Where there is broad arbitration clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the arbitrator rather than the court is to determine if the subject of the dispute is arbitrable
Ontario County v County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01, CSEA, Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO), 2013 NY Slip Op 03204, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] between Ontario County and the Ontario County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01 provided that disputes over the meaning or application of the CBA were initially required to be submitted through the contract's grievance process. In the event the employee was "not satisfied" with the result obtained through that process, the Unit could submit the matter to arbitration .

The Ontario County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01 [Unit] filed grievances on behalf of two correction officers whose request for a shift exchange was denied. Contending that the denial "[v]iolated or [i]nvolved" the clause in the CBA that addressed "time exchanged between employees," the Unit informed County of its intent to seek arbitration. 

The County thereupon filed a petition in Supreme Court pursuant to CPLR Article 75 to stay arbitration and the Unit "cross-moved" to compel arbitration.

Supreme Court denied the County’s petition and granted the Unit’s cross motion.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that “A grievance may be submitted to arbitration only where the parties agree to arbitrate that kind of dispute, and where it is lawful for them to do so." In this instance,” said the court, “the parties do not challenge the lawfulness of arbitrating the instant dispute and, instead, [the County contends] that there is no valid agreement to arbitrate the grievances at issue inasmuch as the CBA did not contemplate shift exchanges."

The Appellate Division rejected the County’s argument, explaining that in determining whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the dispute at issue a court’s review “is limited to the language of the grievance and the demand for arbitration, as well as to the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom"

In this instance, said the court, there is “a broad arbitration clause and a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the parties.” Accordingly, the court decided that the was arbitrable and it was left to the arbitrator to make “a more exacting interpretation of the precise scope of the substantive provisions of the [CBA], and whether the subject matter of the dispute fits within them.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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