June 15, 2018

A party filing a motion seeking a permanent stay of a demand for arbitration must satisfy a "two-part test" to prevail


A party filing a motion seeking a permanent stay of a demand for arbitration must satisfy a "two-part test" to prevail
Village of Garden City v Professional Firefighters Assn. of Nassau County, Local 1588, 2018 NY Slip Op 03688, Appellate Division, Second Department

This proceeding involved a dispute between Village of Garden City [Village],  and the Professional Firefighters Association of Nassau County, Local 1588 [PFA] concerning  Village's implementation of a staffing protocol that was formulated to ensure compliance with a prior arbitration award that was earlier confirmed by this court.* The arbitrator in the earlier arbitration had found that the Village violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement [CBA] by assigning the operation of first-line equipment to volunteer firefighters rather than to paid firefighters represented by PFA.  

PFA filed a grievance contending that the new protocol continued to improperly assign the operation of first-line equipment to volunteer firefighters and demanded arbitration. The Village objected to submitting this new grievance to arbitration and filed an Article 75 petition seeking a permanent stay of the arbitration. Supreme Court issued denied the Village's petition and granting PFA's motion to compel arbitration of the grievance. The Village appealed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly denied the Village's petition to permanently stay arbitration of the grievance and granted PFA's motion to compel the arbitration of the grievance noting that in the earlier proceeding it had ruled that  grievances challenging the operation of first-line equipment by volunteers were arbitrable.

Referring to the two-part test used by the courts to determine whether a dispute between a public sector employer and employee is arbitrable** the court explained that:

1. "Initially, the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance;

2. "If there is no prohibition against arbitrating, the court must examine the parties' collective bargaining agreement and determine if they in fact agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute;

3. "In examining the collective bargaining agreement, the court must merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the [agreement];

4. "If there is, 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."

As the Village was unable to demonstrate that arbitration of PFA's instant grievance was prohibited by statutory or public policy or that PFA's instant grievance was not reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA, the court again ruled that the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA was a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator.



The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_03688.htm

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