Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New York courts use a "two-prong" test to determine if a dispute between a public sector employer and public sector employees may be submitted to arbitration



New York courts use a "two-prong" test to determine if a dispute between a public sector employer and public sector employees may be submitted to arbitration
Village of Garden City v Professional Firefighters Assn. of Nassau County, Local 1588, 2017 NY Slip Op 04849, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Village of Garden City sought to permanently stay arbitration of an alleged violations of a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] demanded by the employee organization, contending that the grievance at issue was not subject to arbitration because [1] the provisions alleged to have been violated were not a part of the parties' CBA; [2] the provisions involved did not contain its own arbitration clause; [3] the matters in dispute were not binding due to improper execution or expiration; and [4] public policy barred arbitration of the dispute.

In contrast, the Association moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the agreements it relied upon in its demand for arbitration constituted an addendum to the CBA and, thus, were subject to arbitration.

The Supreme Court determined that [1] arbitration of the dispute was not against public policy and [2] that the dispute was subject to the arbitration provisions in the parties' CBA. The Village appealed Supreme Court's granting the Association's motion to compel arbitration.

Citing Locust Val. Cent. Sch. Dist. v Benstock, 144 AD3d 758, the Appellate Division said that "The determination of whether a dispute between a public sector employer and [its] 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 arbitration [of] the grievance."

Second, should the court determine that there is no such prohibition against arbitrating the dispute, it must examine the parties' collective bargaining agreement and determine if they, in fact, agreed to arbitrate the particular matter in dispute.

The Appellate Division then explained that in examining the collective bargaining agreement the court merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the agreement. Should the court rule the matter arbitrable, the arbitrator will then make a more exacting interpretation of the precise scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA and whether the subject matter of the dispute fits within them.

Further, the Appellate Division observed that a court "may not consider whether the claim with respect to which arbitration is sought is tenable, or otherwise pass upon the merits of the dispute."

In this instance the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court correctly held that public policy does not prohibit arbitration of the Association's grievance alleging that the Village violated certain procedures and that it also correctly held that the Association's grievance was reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA. Thus, the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA is a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division sustained the lower court's granting 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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