Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Union’s application to confirm an arbitration award granted but the Supreme Court’s sanction of attorney’s fees for the employer’s “frivolous conduct” subsequently vacated



Union’s application to confirm an arbitration award granted but the Supreme Court’s sanction of attorney’s fees for the employer’s “frivolous conduct” subsequently vacated
Matter of Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc. (Board of Educ. of Syracuse City Sch. Dist.), 2015 NY Slip Op 08570, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

An arbitrator, following a hearing, determined that the Syracuse City School District [District] had violated the collective bargaining agreement between it and the Civil Service Employees’ Association [CSEA] when it terminated the employment of one of the employees in the negotiating unit represented by CSEA. The arbitrator directed the District to [1] reinstate the employee to his former position; [2] credit him with the seniority to which he would have been entitled had his employment not been wrongly terminated; and [3] pay him "back pay for the salary and other benefits [he] lost as a result of [his] improper termination," retroactive to 30 days before he filed his grievance.

CSEA initiated a CPLR Article 75 proceeding to confirm an arbitration award in its favor while the District cross motioned the court to vacate the award contending that the award is not final and definite, and thus subject to vacatur  because the arbitrator did not specify whether it was entitled to an offset based on funds the employee had received following his termination from unemployment insurance and other employment.

The Appellate Division rejected the District’s contention explaining that “An arbitration award is nonfinal or indefinite "only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights and obligations, if it does not resolve the controversy submitted or if it creates a new controversy" and sustained the arbitration award.

In this instance, said the court, the award sufficiently defined the parties' rights and obligations notwithstanding its failure to address the offset issue. As to the District’s argument regarding the “offset” it claimed, the court said that there was no indication in the record that the District asked the arbitrator for such an offset at the hearing and, although the arbitrator retained jurisdiction "with respect to the remedy” for about six weeks after the award was rendered, the District did not seek clarification of the award regarding such an offset during that period.

On another issue -- Supreme Court’s awarding CSEA attorneys' fees as a sanction for the District’s “frivolous conduct” -- the Appellate Division said the Supreme Court had made the award without issuing a written decision setting out the “frivolous conduct” on which the award is based and the reasons why the court found such conduct to be "frivolous." Accordingly, the Appellate Division modified the Supreme Court’s order by vacating its award of attorneys' fees.

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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