A detective [Plaintiff] applied for General Municipal Law §207-c line of duty disability benefits. The Employer's claims manager denied Plaintiff's application as untimely. Ultimately the Plaintiff's Union [PBA] demanded that the matter be submitted to arbitration pursuant to the relevant provision set out in the controlling collective bargaining agreement [CBA] between the Employer and the PBA
The arbitrator interpreted the disputed provisions of the CBA and found that the claims manager's denial of the application as untimely was not reasonable.
Employer then filed a CPLR Article 75 petition seeking a Supreme Court order vacating the arbitration award. PBA then cross-petitioned the court to confirm the award. The Supreme Court denied the Employer's petition and granted the PBA's cross petition. The Employer appealed the court's ruling.
Citing Wien & Malkin LLP v Helmsley-Spear, Inc., 6 NY3d 471and other decisions, the Appellate Division observed that "A court may vacate an arbitration award on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded his [or her] powers within the meaning of CPLR 7511(b)(1)(iii) only where the arbitrator's award violates a strong public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power."
The court then explained that for the purposes of Article 75 an arbitrator "exceeds his or her powers ... if the award gives a completely irrational construction to the provisions in dispute and, in effect, makes a new contract for the parties."
The Appellate Division then opined that, contrary to the City's contention, "the arbitrator's interpretation of the CBA was not irrational, and did not effectively rewrite the agreement." Further, said the court, "the arbitrator did not exceed a specifically enumerated limitation on his authority by construing the CBA's terms in light of testimony as to the past practices of the [Employer] and the [PBA].
Agreeing with the Supreme Court's determination denying the Employer's petition to vacate the arbitration award and granting the PBA's cross petition to confirm the arbitration award, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's ruling and awarded the PBA "one bill of costs."
The decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06254.htm