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September 24, 2019

Authority to modify or vacate an arbitration award may be limited by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement


A collective bargaining agreement between the parties provided that if an employee was found guilty of charges involving an assault, the appointing authority had the power to set and impose a penalty.

An employee was charged with assaulting another worker. Found guilty of the charge, the penalty imposed by the appointing authority was dismissal. The union, on behalf of the employee, appealed the appointing authority's determination to the Tripartite Arbitration Board [Board] in accordance with the controlling contract disciplinary grievance procedure.

When the Board denied the grievance but modified the penalty imposed to a suspension rather than termination, the appointing authority filed an Article 75 petition pursuant to §7511 petition seeking to vacate the Board's action. The appointing authority contended that the Board had exceeded its authority when it modified the penalty the appointing authority had imposed.

Supreme Court agreed and vacated that portion of the award that modified the penalty imposed by the appointing authority. The Appellate Division subsequently rejected the union's appeal challenging the lower court's ruling. The Appellate Division said that a court could vacate an arbitrator's award for a limited numbers of reasons, including:

a. the violation of a strong public policy;

b. finding that the award was irrational; or

c. determining that the award clearly exceeded a specific limitation on the arbitrator's powers.

Here the Appellate Division found the limitation described in (c) above controlled as the collective bargaining agreement specifically provided that where the Board sustained the disciplinary charges, the penalty imposed by the Authority must be sustained as well.

Accordingly, the Court ruled that the Board, having sustained the assault charge, had no authority to modify the penalty fixed by the appointing authority -- termination of the employee.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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