Monday, March 24, 2014

Litigating an alleged violation of a term in a collective bargaining agreement following the rejection of a non-binding arbitration award by party to the agreement


Litigating an alleged violation of a term in a collective bargaining agreement following the rejection of a non-binding arbitration award by party to the agreement
Civil Serv. Employees Assn., Inc. v Nassau Health Care Corp., 2014 NY Slip Op 01704, Appellate Division, Second Department

CSEA alleged that Nassau Health Care Corporation [NHCC] had violated the terms of a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] when it deemed certain employees reinstated to their former positions as "new" employees for purposes of determining their eligibility for health benefits, their seniority status, and their rate of leave accruals.*

NHCC and CSEA proceeded to nonbinding arbitration. The arbitrator issued an advisory award sustaining CSEA’s grievances. NHCC rejected the advisory award and CSEA sued, alleging breach of contract and sought declaratory relief and a court order directing NHCC to compensate the employees for expenses incurred by reason of such alleged violations. Supreme Court granted CSEA’s motion for summary judgment and NHCC appealed.

The Appellate Division modified the Supreme Court’s order, finding that NHCC had not violated the CBA with respect to its conduct towards former employees who were reinstated to a full time position a year or more after being laid off without having worked part time for NHCC during this period.

The court said that the CBA was clear and unambiguous with respect to treatment of those former employees reinstated to a full time position a year or more after being laid off without having worked part time for NHCC during this period.

In contrast, the Appellate Division held that the CBA was not clear and was ambiguous with respect to those employees reinstated to a full-time position after one year or more after the interruption of their full-time employment with NHCC but less than a full year interrupted full-time service when periods of part-time employment were taken into account. Resolution of the ambiguity, said the court, is for the “trier of the fact,” remanding this issue to Supreme Court for its further consideration.

The court explained that "When a contract, read as a whole to determine its purpose and intent, plainly manifests the intent of the parties, relief may be granted by way of summary judgment.… Where, however, the contractual provision relied upon is ambiguous, the resolution of the ambiguity is for the trier of fact” to resolve.

Here, said the court, the CBA was clear and unambiguous with respect to treatment of former employees who were reinstated to a full time position a year or more after being laid off without having worked part time for NHCC during this period of their layoff. NHCC demonstrated prima facie that these employees were treated in conformity with those contractual provisions said the Appellate Division.

Thus the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court was incorrect in denying NHCC's motion for summary judgment declaring that it did not violate the CBA with respect to its treatment of employee absent from full time employment for one year or longer without having had any intervening part-time employment with NHCC.

The Appellate Division held that the CBA was not so clear and unambiguous with respect to NHCC's treatment of employees reinstated to a full-time position one year or more after being laid-off  but who had been employed by NHCC part-time during their absence following their laid-off.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court properly denied NHCC's motion seeking summary judgment in its favor with respect to employee having intervening part-time employment with NHCC but erred in granting CSEA's motion for summary judgment with respect to these employees. The issue was remitted to the Supreme Court for further proceedings with respect to those individuals employed by NHCC on a part-time basis during while absent from full-time employment by NHCC for one year or longer.

* The Appellate Division distinguished between to groups of employee: one group consisted of employees absent from their full time employment for more than one year and a second group of employees consisting of employees absent from their full time employment for more than one year but who had been employed by NHCC on a part-time basis during their absence from full-time employment with NHCC.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_01704.htm
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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