Friday, December 9, 2011

Arbitrator's modification of discipline not barred by contract

          The Third Circuit has affirmed a district court's decision enforcing an arbitration award.Wilkes Barre Hospital v. Wyoming Valley Nurses Ass'n.  Grievant had been dismissed for alleged patient care issues and insubordination. The arbitrator concluded that the employer did not have just cause for the dismissal and ordered grievant reinstated with full seniority and benefits, less a 10 day suspension. The employer sought to set  aside the  award, claiming the contract limited the arbitrator to either upholding the discipline in whole or reversing it entirely. The employer maintained that contract language that "The arbitrator shall have the authority only to deny or uphold the grievance" prohibited the arbitrator from modifying the discipline.
         The court noted that while the parties can limit an arbitrator's authority by contract, the language here did not explicitly limit the arbitrator's authority. Other language in the contract, referencing the discretionary award of damages, tended to support the arbitrator's interpretation and, in any event, the arbitrator's interpretation was grounded in the language of the contract and was entitled to deference. Accordingly the court affirmed the enforcement of the award.

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