July 28, 2014

A court will confirm an arbitration award unless it finds the award irrational or violates public policy, or exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power


A court will confirm an arbitration award unless it finds the award irrational or it violates strong public policy, or it exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power
Professional Firefighters Assn. of Nassau County v Village of Garden City, 2014 NY Slip Op 05343, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Village Garden City assigned volunteer firefighters to operated “first line” equipment rather than to paid firefighters represented by the Professional Firefighters Association of Nassau County. The Association grieved the Village’s action and the arbitrator held that the Village had violated the relevant collective bargaining agreement by assigning the operation of first line equipment to volunteer firefighters.

When the Association filed an Article 75 petition seeking to confirm the award, the Village moved to vacate the arbitrator’s decision. Supreme Court vacated the arbitrator’s award and the Association appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court order on the law, with costs, confirming the arbitration award is granted. The court explained that arbitration decisions are entitled to deference from the courts and will not be disturbed unless they are irrational, violate public policy, or exceed a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power.

Rejecting the Village’s argument to the contrary, the Appellate Division said that “challenged arbitration award did not exceed a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power.’  Rather, said the court, the arbitrator acted within her broad authority under the collective bargaining agreement by relying upon the prior agreements and past practices of the parties in interpreting the provisions of the agreement, and in determining that the Village violated it by assigning the operation of first line equipment to volunteer firefighters rather than to paid firefighters represented by the [Association].

As the arbitrator's award was neither irrational nor violative of public policy, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court erred in denying that branch of the petition which was to confirm the award and in granting the Village's motion to vacate it.

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