December 15, 2020

There is no statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition barring arbitrating the termination of an employee serving in an "exempt class" position

Teamsters Local 445, [Teamsters] initiated a CPLR Article 75 seeking a court order compelling the Town of Monroe Planning Board arbitrate its termination of the Board's secretary, a position in the Unclassified Service.*

The Town of Monroe moved to dismiss the petition, contending that:

[1] The dispute was nonarbitrable; and

[2] Teamsters failed to make a timely demand for arbitration.

Supreme Court denied the Town's motion and the Town appealed.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's ruling, explaining a dispute between a public sector employer and an employee is arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test.

The first test - the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance. If the matter survives the first test, the court must next determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute "by examining [the] collective bargaining agreement" [CBA] between the parties.

Finding that there was no statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating this dispute regarding the termination of an employee in an "exempt class", the Appellate Division, sustaining the Supreme Court's determination, concluded that the parties CBA indicates that the relevant CBA "authorized the Teamster to file grievances, and ultimately demand arbitration, on behalf of bargaining unit employees, including the secretary to the Planning Board, irrespective of her [jurisdictional] class designation under the Civil Service Law."

Citing Matter of Board of Educ. of Watertown City School Dist. [Watertown Educ. Assn.], 93 NY2d 132, the Appellate Division opined that where, as here, the relevant arbitration provision of the CBA is broad, providing for arbitration of any grievance involving "a claimed violation, misinterpretation or inequitable application" of the CBA, a court "should merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA." Assuming that the court finds that the matter is arbitrable, 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."

Finding a reasonable relationship existed between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA, the Appellate Division declared that the issue of whether the Board's secretary was afforded tenure protections within "the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA is a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator."

Addressing the issue of whether the Teamsters' demand for arbitration was timely, the Appellate Division concluded that this was "a matter of procedural arbitrability to be resolved by the arbitrator," citing Enlarged City School Dist. of Troy [Troy Teachers Assn.], 69 NY2d 905.

Sustained the Supreme Court's determination denying the Town's motion to dismiss the petition, the Appellate Division dismissed its appeal.

* Positions in New York State's "Classified Service" [Civil Service Law §40] are placed in one of four jurisdictional classifications: the exempt class, [see Civil Service Law §41]; the noncompetitive class [see Civil Service Law §42]; the labor class [see Civil Service Law §43]; or the competitive class [see Civil Service Law §44]. Other jurisdictional classifications are the Unclassified Service [see Civil Service Law §35] and the State's Military Service [see Military Law §2].

The decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06535.htm

 

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