October 12, 2017

The judicial test for determining if a grievance involving a term or condition set out in a collective bargaining agreement is arbitrable


The judicial test for determining if a grievance involving a term or condition set out in a collective bargaining agreement is arbitrable
Matter of the Arbitration between Lewis County and CSEA Local 1000, AFSEME, AFL-CIO, Lewis County Sheriff's Employees Unit #7250-03, Lewis County Local 825, 2017 NY Slip Op 06743, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Lewis County Sheriff appointed one of three part-time dispatchers in the collective bargaining unit represented by CSEA Local 1000, AFSEME, AFL-CIO, Lewis County Sheriff's Employees Unit #7250-03, Lewis County Local 825 [Local 825] to the position of full-time dispatcher. Local 825 filed grievances on behalf of the two part-time dispatchers not selected for the full-time position, alleging that these two dispatchers had more seniority and experience than the part-time dispatcher selected for the full-time position by the Sheriff.

Lewis County denied the grievances and Local 825 filed demands for arbitration.* In response, Lewis County filed a CPLR Article 75 petition seeking a court order permanently staying the arbitration contending that the grievances were not the proper subject of arbitration." Supreme Court granted Lewis County's petition for a permanent stay of arbitration with respect to D.H.'s grievance and Local 825 appealed the ruling to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division said it agreed with Local 825 that Supreme Court erred in granting Lewis County's petition, explaining in City of Johnstown [Johnstown Police Benevolent Assn.], 99 NY2d 273, the Court of Appeals set out a two-pronged test to determine "whether a grievance is arbitrable."

Applying the first prong, usually referred to as "the may-they-arbitrate' prong," the court determines whether there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance." If the court concludes that arbitration is not so prohibited, it proceeds and considers "the second prong, known as "the did-they-agree-to-arbitrate' prong," in which the court examines the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] "to determine if the parties have agreed to arbitrate the dispute at issue".

As Lewis County did not claim that the arbitration of D.H.'s grievance is prohibited because of a statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance, the Appellate Division said that it was only concerned applying the second prong of the test set by the Court of Appeals in Johnstown Police, the "did-they-agree-to-arbitrate' prong,"

With respect this second test, the court said "[i]t is well settled that, in deciding an application to stay or compel arbitration ... the court is concerned only with the threshold determination of arbitrability, and not with the merits of the underlying claim." Citing Matter of Van Scoy [Holder], 265 AD2d 806, the Appellate Division said that "[w]here, as here, there is a broad arbitration clause and a reasonable relationship 'between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the parties' [CBA], the court should rule the matter arbitrable, and 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."

In this instance the grievance concerned the determination of the appointing authority with respect to which one of three employees should be given the full-time position. Holding that "a reasonable relationship exists between the subject matter of the grievance and the general subject matter of the CBA," the Appellate Division ruled that "it is for the arbitrator to determine whether the subject matter of the dispute falls within the scope of the arbitration provisions of the [CBA]."

* The demand for arbitration was withdrawn with respect to one of the part-time dispatchers. The Local's demand to compel arbitration on behalf of the remaining part-time dispatcher, D.H., survived.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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