Sunday, July 7, 2013

Decertification of Union doesn't impact pending dismissal arbitration

   Nurses United for Improved Patient Care represented a bargaining unit at Lee's Summit Medical Center. The Medical Center dismissed an employee and the Union pursued the dispute to arbitration. During the pendency of the dispute, the Union was decertified after it disclaimed interest in continued representation. Subsequently an arbitrator found the dismissal to be without just cause and ordered the employee reinstated and paid back pay from the date of the dismissal until reinstatement. The Medical Center sought to set aside the award to the extent it ordered backpay and reinstatement beyond the Union's decertification. The district court granted summary judgment, and the Medical Center appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

   Affirming the lower court, the Circuit noted it was "beyond question" that an arbitrator may award reinstatement and back pay for periods beyond the cba's expiration so long as in fashioning the remedy the arbitrator was interpreting and applying the contract. The court rejected the Medical Center's attempts to distinguish its situation, noting:

   The Hospital argues that these general principles do not apply because the CBA did not simply expire, it was “voided” when the NLRB decertified the Union. We reject this contention. The Hospital cites no NLRB decisions or rulings giving this effect to decertification, and we are confident the Board did not intend that its decertification would nullify grievance and arbitration proceedings pending under the Union’s CBA. Cf. Union Switch & Signal, 316 N.L.R.B. 1025, 1036 (1995). In our view, so long as the governing CBA authorizes -- in other words, does not prohibit -- post-expiration remedies for pre-expiration grievances, the manner in which the CBA expires has no effect on the arbitrator’s authority.

   The Court also rejected the Medical Center's contention that grievant lost all job protection following the decertification, concluding that there was "no evidence" that grievant would have been dismissed the day after expiration if the case had proceeded more expeditiously and she had been reinstated prior to that time.

   Finding no basis to conclude that the arbitrator's award failed to "draw its essence" from the cba the Court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

The Court's opinion in Midwest Division-LSH,LLC, doing business as Lee's Summit Medical Center v. Nurses United for Improved Patient Care, CNA/NNOC, can be found here.

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