April 6, 2020

Determining if a dispute between the parties is arbitrable

In this hybrid Article 75 proceeding the Board of Education [Board] sought a court order pursuant to CPLR Article 75 permanently staying an arbitration and for declaratory relief. Supreme Court denied the petition and granted the motion of the Federation of Teachers [Federation] to compel arbitration. The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court's ruling.

Federation had filed a grievance alleging that the Board a term and condition of the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] between the parties by failing to enforce a parking space assignment agreement between the Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association.

The Appellate Division, citing Matter of City of Yonkers v Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO, 153 AD3d 617, said that "Public policy in New York favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes"  but that a dispute between a public sector employer and a public sector employee organization is only arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test.

The first prong of this two-point test to be satisfied is the absence of any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance.

If the court finds that there is no such prohibition against the arbitration, it must determine if the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement.

In this instance the Board did not contend that arbitrating the Federation's grievance was barred by law or public policy. Accordingly, the issue to be addressed by the Appellate Division was the Board and Federation did, in fact, agree to arbitrate the particular dispute. To resolve this question the court must determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA.

Recalling that in analogous cases "this Court had held that the arbitration provision of the CBA at issue here is broad,"* Moreover, the Appellate Division concluded that there was "a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute, staff parking, and the general subject matter of the CBA, including conditions of employment" and affirmed the decision of the Supreme Court.

* See Board of Educ., Yonkers City School Dist. v Yonkers Fedn. of Teachers, 110 AD2d 897, 898-899; Matter of Board of Educ. of Yonkers City School Dist. v Yonkers Fedn. of Teachers, 81 AD2d 585; and Matter of Board of Education of Yonkers City School Dist. v Yonkers Fedn. of Teachers, 49 AD2d 753.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_01343.htm

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