Disciplinary arbitrator’s treating one individual differently or less favorably than another similarly situated individual is not a reason to vacate the arbitration award.
2014 NY Slip Op 03265, Appellate Division, Second Department
MTA Bus Co. had a policy banning cell-phone use while operating a bus. After the bus driver allegedly violated the MTA’s cell-phone policy three separate occasions and, in accordance with that policy, he had been suspended from employment for a period of 10 days.
Following the bus driver's fourth violation MTA terminated his employment.
The bus driver’s union filed a grievance challenging the termination, and an arbitration hearing was conducted. After the hearing, the arbitrator concluded that the bus driver had committed a "cell phone violation," and that MTA's decision to terminate his employment was proper. The bus driver filed and Article 75 petition seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award.
Supreme Court denied the petition, in effect confirming the award and the bus driver appealed, contending that the arbitration award was irrational.
The Appellate Division, noting that "Judicial review of an arbitrator's award is extremely limited" said a court may vacate an arbitration award pursuant to CPLR 7511(b)(1)(iii) "only if it violates a strong public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power." Further said the court, "Courts are bound by an arbitrator's . . . judgment concerning remedies [and] cannot examine the merits of an arbitration award and substitute its judgment for that of the arbitrator simply because it believes its interpretation would be the better one." In addition the court commented that the fact “That the arbitrator may have treated the petitioner differently or less favorably than another similarly situated bus driver is not a ground to vacate the arbitration award.”
The Appellate Division held that the arbitrator's award was justified and, hence, rational as the record showed that the bus driver was aware of MTA’s cell-phone policy and had been previously suspended for 10 days for violating that policy. The court explained that violation of the MTA's cell-phone policy, which also violates New York law, constitutes appropriate grounds for termination of employment.
The decision is posted on the Internet at:http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_03265.htm