Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A two-step test is used by New York court to determine if a grievance is arbitrable


A two-step test is used by New York court to determine if a grievance is arbitrable
Incorporated Vil. of Floral Park v Floral Park Police Benevolent Assn.,2015 NY Slip Op 07026, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Floral Park Police Benevolent Association [PBA] filed a grievance alleging that its members, who worked during and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, from October 29, 2012, through November 5, 2012, were entitled to additional compensation from the Incorporated Village of Floral Park pursuant to their Collective Bargaining Agreement. Unsuccessful in the three-step grievance procedure, the PBA demanded that the grievance be submitted arbitration.

The Village commenced an Article 75 action seeking a court order to stay the arbitration, whereupon the PBA filed a cross-petitioned to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court granted the Village's petition and the PBA appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court action, on the law, granted the PBA’s petition to compel arbitration is granted. The court ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration noting that public policy in New York favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes.

However, the Appellate Division explained, a dispute between a public sector employer and employee is only arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test. First the court must determine if there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance. If it passes this test, the court must then determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement.

The Village did not claim that arbitration of this grievance was prohibited by statute or public policy, nor did the Appellate Division find that such a prohibition, in fact, existed.

As to the second test, did the parties agreement to submit the focus of the grievance to arbitration, the court said that was only necessary to determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA. In this instance the court said that relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreement were broad, as they provide for arbitration of any grievance, defined as "any claimed violation, misinterpretation or inequitable application of this Agreement," which remains unresolved following completion of step three of the grievance procedure. 

The Appellate Division found that there was a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute, which involves compensation over a specific time period, and the general subject matter of the CBA, and thus was arbitrable.

As to defects alleged by Village, [1] that the evidence did not support the grievance and that [2] the PBA failed to comply with the time limits for bringing the grievance, the Appellate Division said that both issues were for the arbitrator to determine.

The Appellate Division said that the "threshold determination of whether a condition precedent to arbitration exists and whether it has been complied with, is for the court to determine" In contrast, "[q]uestions concerning compliance with a contractual step-by-step grievance process have been recognized as matters of procedural arbitrability to be resolved by the arbitrators, particularly in the absence of a very narrow arbitration clause or a provision expressly making compliance with the time limitations a condition precedent to arbitration."

Here the CBA does not specify that a grievance must be personally pursued by an aggrieved member as a condition precedent to arbitration. Thus the issue as to whether the PBA complied with the grievance process is one of procedural arbitrability to be resolved by the arbitrator.

Finding that the PBA complied with the requirement that a grievance be presented to and discussed with a supervisor "within fifteen (15) days of an alleged grievance," and that the PBA president timely discussed the grievance with his supervisor after the Village first informed him that members of the Village's police department would not receive additional compensation for time worked from October 29, 2012, through November 5, 2012, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court should have denied the Village's petition to stay arbitration and granted the PBA's cross petition to compel arbitration, and directed the parties to proceed to 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:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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