Friday, June 1, 2012

Arbitrator erred in awarding back pay after finding just cause for termination

The Columbus, Ohio firm Downes Fisher Hass Kim reports on a recent decision of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on competing motions to vacate an arbitration award.
Court Overturns Arbitrator's Award; Reinstates Original Discipline. The firm links to the court's decision here.
The grievant was a police officer in the City of Reynoldsburg, Ohio. His employment was terminated for alleged misuse of sick time and for submitting a false doctor’s note supporting the absence. The arbitrator found that the City had just cause for the termination, but extended the termination date to the date of the award, effectively granting grievant back pay and benefits for that period. The arbitrator based this action on his conclusion that the City had violated the officer’s rights by improperly issuing a subpoena under the guise of a criminal investigation for medical records related to the claimed doctor visit and note.
The court denied the Union’s request to vacate the award insofar as it upheld the termination, finding “ample evidence” supporting the decision. However the Court agreed with the City that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority by granting the grievant an extended off roll date. The Court noted:
The sole issue before the Arbitrator was … whether the grievant was terminated for just cause, and if not, what, if anything, was a proper remedy. The Arbitrator concluded that, based on the evidence, [grievant] had committed the rule violations and thus, was terminated for just cause.
Despite these findings, the Arbitrator modified the date of [Grievant’s] termination …. The rationale that the Arbitrator used in changing the date of termination effectively punished the City for the alleged unlawful subpoenas….

The Court determined  that in awarding damages for the alleged procedural errors committed by the City during the investigation, the Arbitrator was "clearly exceeding the authority given to him by the parties’s CBA"  and the applicable statute.

 Accordingly, it vacated that portion of the award extending grievant’s off roll date.

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