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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Grievances reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA typically involve matters of contract interpretation and application to be determined by an arbitrator



Grievances reasonably related to the general subject matter of a CBA typically involve matters of contract interpretation and application to be determined by an arbitrator
Village of Garden City v Local 1588, Professional Firefighters Assn., 2015 NY Slip Op 07672, Appellate Division, Second Department

Local 1588, Professional Firefighters Association [Association] filed a grievance after the Village of Garden City [Village] laid off of members of the bargaining unit members and assign bargaining unit work to nonbargaining unit volunteers.  In response to the Association’s demand to submit the grievance to arbitration, the Village sought a court order to permanently stay arbitration on the ground that it retained absolute management rights to lay off employees and assign work under the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA]. The Association cross-moved compel arbitration, arguing that the CBA permitted arbitration of this dispute.

The Supreme Court denied the Village’s motion, finding that the parties had agreed in the CBA to arbitrate these issues, and that it was not against public policy to do so and granted the Association’s motion to compel arbitration. The Village appealed.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court’s ruling, explaining that the determination of whether a dispute between a public sector employer and employee is arbitrable is subject to a “two-prong test."

First the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance. If there is no such prohibition, the court must then examine the CBA and determined if the parties did, in fact, agree to arbitrate the particular dispute.

Although the Village argued that the arbitration of layoffs of unit member firefighters is prohibited by public policy, the Appellate Division, citing NYC Transit Authority v Transportation Workers Union of America, 88 AD3d 887, said a dispute is not arbitrable if a court can conclude “without engaging in any extended factfinding or legal analysis” that a law "prohibit[s], in an absolute sense, [the] particular matters [to be] decided by arbitration.” Here, said the court, the Village failed to point to any law or public policy that would prohibit arbitration of the grievance.

As to the Association's claim that the Village had improperly assigned bargaining unit work to nonunion volunteers, the court observed that “the very issue as to arbitrability has already been decided” by it. The Appellate Division cited Professional Firefighters Association Local 1588 v Village of Garden City, 119 AD2d 803, explaining that by confirming an arbitration award which directed the Village “to cease and desist from assigning bargaining unit work to volunteers” it had implicitly acknowledged the arbitrability of that specific issue.

Finding that the grievances were reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA and, therefore, the Village’s management rights granted under Article XVII of the CBA and "the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA [are] a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator."

Accordingly, said the Appellate Division, the Supreme Court properly denied the petition to permanently stay arbitration and granted the Association's motion 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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