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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Complying with probationary evaluation procedures set out in the collective bargaining agreement


Complying with probationary evaluation procedures set out in the collective bargaining agreement
2014 NY Slip Op 01236, Appellate Division, Third Department

The relevant collective bargaining agreement (CBA) containing a broad arbitration clause and a grievance procedure providing that any unresolved grievance is subject to arbitration.

After a probationer received a series of negative evaluations, probationer's administrators recommended that the probationer be denied tenure. The union filed a grievance on the probationer's behalf challenging, among other things, whether the employer had complied with the probationary evaluation procedures provided for in the CBA.

The employer denied the grievance and terminated the probationer's employment. The union filed a demand for arbitration. In response, the employer initiated an action in Supreme Court seeking a stay of arbitration pursuant to CPLR §7503(b).

Supreme Court granted the employer's petition, concluding that the subject matter of the grievance was not arbitrable because it actually challenged the employer’s tenure decision — over which the parties agree that employer had sole discretion — and not the alleged failure to comply with the agreed-upon evaluation procedures.*

This, said the Appellate Division, was incorrect and the employer’s petition should have been denied.

The Appellate Division explained that the court's role in determining applications to stay arbitration is limited and, as relevant in this action, requires a determination of whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate the dispute at issue.

As the union asserted a violation of the evaluation procedures agreed to by the parties and included as part of the CBA, the Appellate Division concluded that there was a rational relationship between the subject of the grievance and the CBA. Thus, said the court, “The question of whether the employer violated these procedures "goes to the merits of the grievance, not to its arbitrability."  

In the words of the Appellate Division, "[T]he fact that the substantive clauses of the contract might not support the grievances . . . is irrelevant on the threshold question of arbitrability. It is for the arbitrator, and not the courts, to resolve any uncertainty concerning the substantive rights and obligations of the parties."

* In Cohoes City School District v Cohoes Teachers Association, 40 NY2d 774, the Court of Appeals ruled that "contractual provisions between a teachers association and a school district can provide procedural safeguards concerning the tenure decision without offending public policy [see, also, Matter of Clarkstown Central School District, 163 AD2d 670].

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances 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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