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November 19, 2020

Determining if an alleged violation of a memorandum of understanding supplementing a collective bargaining agreement is arbitrable

On November 18, 2020, the Appellate Division, Second Department, handed down four decisions:

County of Nassau v Detectives Assn., Inc., of the Police Dept. of Nassau County [DIA], 2020 NY Slip Op 06745; 

County of Nassau v Detectives Assn., Inc., of the Police Dept. of Nassau County, 2020 NY Slip Op 06779;

County of Nassau v Police Benevolent Assn. of the Police Dept. of the County of Nassau, 2020 NY Slip Op 06780; and 

County of Nassau v Police Benevolent Assn. of the Police Dept. of the County of Nassau, 2020 NY Slip Op 06746.

All four cases involved the same basic issue: efforts by organizations representing employees in different collective bargaining units pursuant to the Taylor Law [Article 14 of the New York State Civil Service Law] to compel the arbitration of a dispute involving the implementation of terms set out in a "memorandum of understanding" [MOU] providing for " longevity payments" and efforts by Nassau County, as the employer, to obtain a court judgment declaring that the MOA invalid and unenforceable because Nassau Count alleged it was based upon a mutual mistake of fact.

The employee organizations had submitted grievances to the Commissioner of Police, alleging that its respective members were not receiving longevity payments in accordance with the MOA, thereby exhausting their respective administrative remedies and then demanded the matter be submitted to arbitration.

The County subsequently commenced a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 75 seeking to permanently stay arbitration while employee organizations countered by seeking a court orders compelling the submission of the disputes to arbitration.

Cross-referencing the four decisions, the Appellate Division opined that the grievances arising from Nassau County's decision not to implement the provisions in the relevant MOA's was arbitrable, explaining:

1. In Matter of Board of Educ. of the Yonkers City Sch. Dist. v Yonkers Fedn. of Teachers, 180 AD3d 1041, the court said that "Public policy in New York favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes."

2. A dispute between a public sector employer and an employee is only arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test" whereby the court must:

    [a] First determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance;" and second, 

    [b] "If there is no prohibition against the arbitration," the court must determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement;" and

    [c] Consider whether "there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the collective bargaining agreement [CBA]."

3. In the event there is no such "reasonable relationship", the issue, as a matter of law, is not arbitrable but if such a relationship is found, the court is to rule that 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."

4. Agreeing with Supreme Court's determination denying the County's petition to permanently stay arbitration and granting the Detectives Assn., Inc.'s [DAI] motion to compel the County to submit to arbitration, the Appellate Division noted that the County had not identified any constitutional, statutory, or public policy prohibition to arbitrating the grievances and the issue to be resolved is whether the County and the respective employee organizations had agreed to arbitrate this dispute.

5. The arbitration provision of the relevant CBAs was broad, and there was a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute, which involved longevity payments, and the general subject matter of the CBAs. (See Matter of City of Yonkers v Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628 IAFF, AFL-CIO, 176 AD3d at 1199).

6. Thus, as the Court of Appeals held in Matter of Cassone, 63 NY2d 756 and Matter of Prinze [Jonas], 38 NY2d 570, the Appellate Division indicated:

    [a] The validity of the substantive provisions of the MOAs, including whether a particular MOA is invalid because of mutual mistake, is for the arbitrator to decide; and

    [b] Any issues regarding the validity and effect of the MOAs involved were for the arbitrator to determine under the relevant CBA's grievance procedures.

The several decisions are posted on the Internet as indicated below:

County of Nassau v Detectives Assn., Inc., of the Police Dept. of Nassau County [DIA], 2020 NY Slip Op 06745, posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06745.htm;

County of Nassau v Detectives Assn., Inc., of the Police Dept. of Nassau County, 2020 NY Slip Op 06779, posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06779.htm;

County of Nassau v Police Benevolent Assn. of the Police Dept. of the County of Nassau, 2020 NY Slip Op 06780, posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06780.htm; and

County of Nassau v Police Benevolent Assn. of the Police Dept. of the County of Nassau, 2020 NY Slip Op 06746, posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06746.htm.

 

 

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