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November 06, 2014

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board is bound by the disciplinary arbitrator's factual findings regarding the employee’s misconduct


The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board held bound by the disciplinary arbitrator's factual findings regarding the employee’s misconduct 
2014 NY Slip Op 07414, Appellate Division, Third Department

A NYC Transit Authority [Authority] train operator [Operator] was served with disciplinary charges. Following a full evidentiary arbitration hearing conducted under the collective bargaining agreement, Operator was terminated.

Operator applied for unemployment insurance benefits and the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, noting that it was bound by the factual findings of the arbitrator, conducted an "independent evaluation” as to whether Operator’s behavior constituted disqualifying misconduct for the purposes of unemployment insurance.

The Board, however, found that Operator’s behavior leading to the Authority’s filing disciplinary charges did not constitute “disqualifying misconduct” within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Law and approved his claim for unemployment insurance benefits.

The Appellate Division reversed the Board’s determination.

The court explained that "While the Board was free to make 'independent additional factual findings' and draw its own independent conclusion as to whether [Operator’s] behavior rose to the level of disqualifying misconduct for purposes of entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits, it was also bound by the [arbitrator's] 'factual findings regarding [Operator’s] conduct and [her] conclusion' that claimant had" committed serious violations of safety rules.

In this instance the arbitrator found that Operator had committed “grave violations of the employer's policies that had endangered the safety of his passengers, violations that were rendered even more egregious by the fact that he had previously been disciplined for similar conduct.”

In contrast, said the court, the Board “inexplicably found that [Operator] had ‘substantially complied with’ the [Authority’s] policies and made no effort to consider [Operator’s] behavior within the context of his prior disciplinary history."

Accordingly the Appellate Division ruled that the Board improperly contradicted factual findings of the arbitrator and remitted the matter to the Board for it to "reconsider upon appropriate findings."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_07414.htm
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