July 21, 2020

Typically courts are bound by the arbitrator's factual findings, interpretation of the contract and decision with respect to the remedies provided by the award


The collective bargaining representative  [TCBR] of the teachers of a school district filed a grievance with the school board [Board] on behalf of teachers assigned to certain integrated co-teaching classrooms contending that such assignments increased class sizes in violation of certain provisions set out in the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] between the parties. Ultimately TCBR filed a notice of intent to arbitrate the alleged violations of the CBA and the Board and the TCBR  stipulated that the issue of whether the increased class sizes violated certain Articles in the CBA would be submitted to arbitration.

After conducting a hearing, the arbitrator determined that the increased class sizes violated two of the several Articles in the CBA that TCBR  had alleged the Board had violated. As redress, the arbitrator awarded additional compensation to the affected teachers for the relevant time period. The District then commenced a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 75 seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award. Supreme Court denied the Board's petition to vacate the arbitration award and confirmed the award. The Board filed a timely appeal challenging the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court's decision, opining that judicial review of arbitration awards is extremely limited. 

Citing  Matter of Kowaleski [New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs.], 16 NY3d 85, the court explained that an arbitration award may not be vacated unless it shown to violate a strong public policy,  is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power. Further, said the Appellate Division, "A party seeking to overturn an arbitration award bears a heavy burden and must establish a ground for vacatur by clear and convincing evidence."

Noting that courts are bound by the arbitrator's factual findings, the arbitrator's interpretation of the contract and the arbitrator's decision with respect to the remedies to be provided an injured party, the Appellate Division observed that "A court cannot examine the merits of an arbitration award and substitute its judgment for that of the arbitrator simply because it believes its interpretation would be the better one." Tthe court pointed out that in New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association v State of New York, 94 NY2d 321, the Court of Appeals stated that "courts will not assume the role of overseers to conform the award to their sense of justice."

Agreeing with the Supreme Court's determination that the arbitrator's award was neither irrational nor violative of public policy, nor did the arbitrator exceed a specifically enumerated limitation on his authority, the Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's determination denying the Board's  petition to vacate the arbitration award and its confirmation of the arbitrator's award.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

CAUTION

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
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 in this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor members of the staff are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.