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Friday, March 06, 2015

In the public sector the intent of parties to a collective bargaining agreement to arbitrate a particular issue may not be presumed


In the public sector the intent of parties to a collective bargaining agreement to arbitrate a particular issue may not be presumed
County of Rockland v Corr. Officers Benevolent Assn. of Rockland County, Inc., 2015 NY Slip Op 01798, Appellate Division, Second Department

A correction officer filed a grievance after he was denied a longevity pay increase. After his grievance was denied, the Correction Officers Benevolent Association of Rockland County, Inc. filed a notice of intent to arbitrate the grievance. Contending that the parties had not agreed to arbitrate this type of grievance, Rockland County sought a permanent stay of arbitration. The County's motion to permanently stay arbitration was granted by Supreme Court. 

Supreme Court determined that the parties had only agreed to arbitrate certain limited matters expressly delineated in the collective bargaining agreement [CBA], which did not include the grievance at issue. The Association appealed and the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly granted the County’s petition to permanently stay arbitration and denied the Association’s cross petition to compel arbitration.

The Appellate Division explained that the determination of whether a dispute between a public sector employer and a public employee organization is arbitrable is subject to a two-prong test, citing Deer Park UFSD v Deer Park Teachers’ Association, 77 AD3d 747, whereby:

1. The court must initially determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance and absent such a finding;

2. Must examine the parties' collective bargaining agreement and determine if they, in fact, agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute at issue.

Observing that here the County did not claim that the arbitration of the subject matter of the dispute was prohibited by law or public policy, the court concluded the only issue to consider was whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute.

The Appellate Division said that unlike general labor disputes in the private sector involving arbitration, the intent of parties to a collective bargaining agreement in the field of public employment to arbitrate a particular issue may not be presumed but rather “it must be taken, in the absence of clear, unequivocal agreement to the contrary, that the [parties to the collective bargaining agreement] did not intend to refer differences which might arise to the arbitration forum," citing Acting Supt. of Schools of Liverpool Cent. School Dist. [United Liverpool Faculty Assn.], 42 NY2d at 514.

Finding that the relevant collective bargaining agreement did not broadly provide for the arbitration of any grievance that may arise under the CBA, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court correctly concluded that the CBA limited the availability of arbitration to specifically enumerated matters.

The bottom line: As the Association failed to demonstrate that "the parties in fact agreed to arbitrate [this] particular dispute," the Supreme Court properly granted the County's petition to permanently stay arbitration and properly denied the Association's cross petition to compel arbitration.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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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