The essentials of challenging an employee disciplinary action where compulsory arbitration is involved
VHB, a tenured teacher employed by the New York Department of Education [Department], was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a*.
1. The rights of the party challenging the award were prejudiced by corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award;
2. The arbitrator appointed as a neutral was not impartial;
3. The arbitrator exceeded his or her power or so imperfectly executed it that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made;
4. There was a failure to follow the procedure of set out in CPLR Article 75 [except if the party applying to vacate the award continued with the arbitration with notice of the defect and without objection].
In certain cases, however, the courts have adopted "a violation of a strong public policy standard" when considering petitions to vacate an arbitrator’s award. For example, in Matter of the Town of Callicoon, 79 NY2d 907, the Court of Appeals ruled that a court could vacate an arbitrator’s award if it determines that the award violated a strong public policy.
The Appellate Division said that the award in VHB's case was not arbitrary and capricious and “was well supported by the evidence.” The Hearing Officer, said the court, had engaged in a through analysis of the facts and circumstances, evaluated witnesses' credibility, and arrived at a reasoned conclusion. VHB's due process rights were met as she was provided with notice, an appropriate hearing and the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.