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September 15, 2017

An arbitrator's award may only be vacated by a court if it violates public policy, is irrational or it exceeds specified limitations on the arbitrator's power


An arbitrator's award may only be vacated by a court if it violates public policy, is irrational or it exceeds specified limitations on the arbitrator's power
Subway Surface Supervisors Assn. v New York City Tr. Auth., 2017 NY Slip Op 06444, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Subway Surface Supervisors Association [Association] and the Transit Supervisors Organization, Local 106 [Local 106] both claimed to represent certain New York City Transit Authority employees working at a bus depot [Depot] in Manhattan.

Both employee organizations filed grievances with the employer, the New York City Transit Authority [TA] under their respective collective bargaining agreements. The Association then participated in a mediation effort with Local 106 and the TA, but the mediation effort failed to resolve the conflict.

The Association next filed a "Petition for Unit Clarification and/or Unit Placement" with the New York State Public Employment Relations Board [PERB]. The petition, however, was deemed withdrawn and the matter closed. The Association agreed to arbitrate the dispute and was involved in the selection of the arbitrator.

TA sent a letter to the arbitrator indicating the parties' agreement to submit "to a tri-party arbitration ... to resolve all current disputes between the parties, including jurisdiction and representation issues involving supervisory personnel" related to the Depot. All the parties participated in the initial arbitration hearing after which the arbitrator issued an award dated December 4, 2014.

Subsequently, "by consent of all parties," Association participated in a second arbitration hearing before the arbitrator. The arbitrator issued a supplemental award dated January 29, 2015 and following the issuance of the second arbitration award the Association "participated in three telephone conferences with the arbitrator concerning additional issues that arose between the parties."

The Association then initiated a CPLR Article 75 proceeding seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award dated December 4, 2014 on the grounds that the award "violated public policy considerations embodied in the Taylor Law" [Civil Service Law Article 14] and that the arbitrator had exceeded his power under the collective bargaining agreement between the Association and the TA. The Supreme Court denied the petition and the Association appealed.

The Appellate Division, noting that a party seeking to overturn an arbitration on one or more of the grounds stated in CPLR 7511(b)(1) "bears a heavy burden," and, citing Matter of New York City Tr. Auth. v Transport Workers Union of Am., Local 100, 14 NY3d 119, noted that in that action the Court of Appeals indicated it had recognized "three narrow grounds that may form the basis for vacating an arbitrator's award—that it violates public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power."  

The Appellate Division decided that the Association failed to meet the "strict standards for overturning arbitration awards on public policy grounds."

The Appellate Division further opined that "under the circumstances of this case, the [Association] waived any argument that the award exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power," concluding that Supreme Court had properly denied the petition to vacate the arbitration award.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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