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March 31, 2021

Public policy in New York State favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes

In Matter of County of Nassau v Detectives Assn., Inc. of the Police Dept. of Nassau County,188 AD3d 1049, the Appellate Division rejected Nassau County's petition to permanently stay arbitration of  contract grievance and granted the Union's motion to compel arbitration of the grievance. The grievance alleging that employees in the collective bargaining unit represented by the Detectives Association were not receiving longevity payments in accordance with "a memorandum of agreement"  between the parties.   

Nassau County had contended that the disputed memorandum of agreement between the County and the Association was invalid and unenforceable.

The Appellate Division disagreed, holding:

1. The County had not identified any constitutional, statutory, or public policy prohibition to arbitrating this grievance, citing Matter of Board of Educ. of the Yonkers CitySch. Dist. v YonkersFedn. of Teachers, 180 AD3d at 1042);

2. The issue was whether the County and the Association agreed to arbitrate this dispute; and

3. The arbitration provision of the relevant collective bargaining agreement was broad, and "there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute," which involved longevity payments, and the general subject matter of the collective bargaining agreement.

The full text of Detectives Association, set out below, has been cited in the decisions listed below involving similar grievances, to the same effect.

1. County of Nassau v Civil Service Employees Association, decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01748.htm;

2. County of Nassau v Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association, Inc., et al., decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01749.htm;

3. County of Nassau v Superior Officers Association of the Police Department of the County of Nassau, Inc., et al., decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01750.htm;

4. In the Matter of County of Nassau v Civil Service Employees Association, etc., decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01766.htm;

5. County of Nassau v Superior Officers Association of the Police Department of the County of Nassau, Inc., et al., decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01750.htm;

6. In the Matter of County of Nassau v Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association, Inc., decision posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01767.htm; and

7. In the Matter of County of Nassau v Superior Officers Association of the Police Department of the County of Nassau, Inc., decision posted on the Internet at
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2021/2021_01768.htm;

 

In the Matter of County of Nassau, Appellant,
v
Detectives Association, Inc. of the Police Department of Nassau County, Respondent.

Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, LLP, Mineola, NY(Peter A. Bee, William C. DeWitt, and Jason Greenfield of counsel), for appellant.

Steven E. Losquadro, P.C., Rocky Point, NY(John Ciampoli of counsel), for respondent.

"In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 75 to permanently stay arbitration of the respondent's grievance arising from a memorandum of agreement dated September 15, 2017, the petitioner appeals from an order and judgment (one paper) of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Thomas A. Adams, J.), entered March 12, 2019. The order and judgment denied the petition to permanently stay arbitration and granted the respondent's motion to compel arbitration.

"Ordered that the order and judgment is affirmed, with costs.

"The County of Nassauand the Detectives Association, Inc., of the Police Department of Nassau County (hereinafter the DAI) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (hereinafter the CBA). In 2018, pursuant to the procedures set forth in the CBA, the DAI submitted a grievance alleging that its members were not receiving longevity payments in accordance with a memorandum of agreement dated September 15, 2017 (hereinafter the MOA). By verified petition, the County commenced the instant proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 75 to permanently stay arbitration. The DAI moved to dismiss the petition and to compel the County to submit to arbitration. The Supreme Court denied the petition and granted the DAI's motion to compel arbitration. The County appeals. We affirm.

"[A] party who has not participated in the arbitration and who has not made or been served with an application to compel arbitration, may apply to stay arbitration on the ground that a valid agreement was not made or has not been complied with" (CPLR 7503 [b]). "The 'valid agreement' referred to in CPLR 7503 concerns a valid agreement to arbitrate" (Matter of Prinze [Jonas]. . , 38 NY2d 570, 577 [1976]). "Thus even when it is alleged . that the contract itself is invalid in its entirety, the court's role is still confined to determining the validity of the arbitration clause alone" (id.at 577). "If the arbitration agreement is valid, any controversy as to the validity of the contract as a whole passes to the arbitrators" (id.).

"Public policy in New York favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes" (Matter of Board of Educ. of the Yonkers City Sch. Dist. v Yonkers Fedn. of Teachers, 180 AD3d 1041, 1042 [2020] [internal quotation marks omitted]). "However, a dispute between a public sector employer and an employee is only arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test" (id. at 1042 [internal quotation marks omitted]). "First, the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance" (id.). "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" (id. [internal quotation marks omitted]). Where "the relevant arbitration provision of the CBA is . a court should merely determine whether there is a reasonable . broad, . relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA" (Matter of City of Yonkers v Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO, 176 AD3d 1197, 1199 [2019] [internal quotation marks omitted]). "If there is none, the issue, as a matter of law, is not arbitrable" (id. at 1199 [internal quotation marks omitted]). "If there is, the court should rule 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" (id. [internal quotation marks omitted]).

"Here, we agree with the Supreme Court's determination denying the County's petition to permanently stay arbitration and granting the DAI's motion to compel the County to submit to arbitration. The County has not identified any constitutional, statutory, or public policy prohibition to arbitrating this grievance (see Matter of Board of Educ. of the Yonkers CitySch. Dist. v YonkersFedn. of Teachers, 180 AD3d at 1042). Thus, the issue is whether the County and the DAI agreed to arbitrate this dispute (see id.). The arbitration provision of the CBA is broad, and there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute, which involves longevity payments, and the general subject matter of the CBA (see Matter of City of Yonkers v Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO, 176 AD3d at 1199). Accordingly, the grievance was arbitrable, and any issues regarding the validity and effect of the MOA were for the arbitrator to determine under the CBA's grievance procedures (see Matter of Prinze [Jonas], 38 NY2d at 577).

"The County's remaining arguments are without merit. Roman, J.P., Duffy, Barros and Connolly, JJ., concur."

 

 

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