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Nominations sought for the Empire Star Public Service Award

This award recognizes exemplary employees of New York State serving in the Executive Branch.

Nominations must be submitted no later than December 15, 2017 and may be completed online.

For more information about the Empire Star Public Service Award, visit www.ny.gov/EmpireStarPublicService.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Failing to seek a court order staying an arbitration precludes the objecting party from subsequently contending that there was no valid agreement to arbitrate


Failing to seek a court order staying an arbitration precludes the objecting party from subsequently contending that there was no valid agreement to arbitrate
Ruiz v County of Rockland, 2016 NY Slip Op 02999, Appellate Division, Second Department

Carlos Ruiz was terminated from his position with the County of Rockland. Ruiz, through his employee organization, demanded that the matter of his termination be submitted to arbitration under color of terms set out in collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the County and United Federation of Police Officers, Inc., Local 613, [Union], of which Ruiz was a member. 

Rockland did not apply for a court order staying the arbitration although it sent letters to Ruiz, the Union and the assigned arbitrator indicating that “it refused to participate in an arbitration proceeding.”  Following the County's refusal, Ruiz and the Union [Petitioners] commenced an Article 75 proceeding to compel the County to arbitrate Ruiz's termination grievance in accordance with the terms of the CBA. The Supreme Court granted the petition and the County appealed the court’s ruling.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court’s decision explaining that the County's “failure to apply to stay arbitration precludes it from now contending that the CBA does not constitute a valid agreement to arbitrate” the issue, rejecting the County’s argument that the disciplinary procedure outlined in the CBA does not entitle Ruiz to grieve his termination through arbitration. The issue of whether Ruiz's termination was a type of disciplinary action subject to arbitration under the CBA “is a matter of contract interpretation and application to be resolved by the arbitrator.”

Why it is necessary for a party to go to court to seek a stay of arbitration? If the partly refuses to participate in the arbitration and does not have the authority of the court in the form of a “stay of arbitration,” temporary or otherwise, the arbitration can proceed “in absentia” of the objecting party.

For example, in Hall v Environmental Conservation, 235 AD2d 757, the Appellate Division ruled that an arbitrator [1] may proceed with a disciplinary arbitration notwithstanding the fact that the appointing authority refused to participate in the proceeding and [2] thereafter make a final, binding determination.  

The employer had boycotted the arbitration because, it contended, Hall was not entitled submit the matter to arbitration. The court upheld the arbitrator’s award in favor of the employee.

The same result obtains when a party refuses or fails to participate in an administrative proceedings. The decision of the Appellate Division, Third Department in Aures v Buffalo Board of Education, 272 A.D.2d 664, demonstrates this.

In Aures, the employer, the
Buffalo City School District, failed to appear at an unem­ployment insurance hearing as scheduled. The hearing officer proceeded to hold the hearing "in absentia" and awarded unemployment insurance benefits to Aures. Rejecting Buffalo's appeal challenging the award of benefits, the Appellate Division ruled that the administrative determination was binding on the parties.

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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