Ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, the District Court for the Middle District of Florida addressed the "unique question" of:
Concluding that the arbitrator's first award was intended to be final, the Court determined that the doctrine of functus officio precluded the arbitrator from reconsidering the award and substituting a new one.
the issue which the original arbitration award addressed had been presented to the arbitrator through the Union's broadly worded grievance and he was therefore well within his authority in his original determination of the merits. And contrary to the common law doctrine of functus officio, the arbitrator exceeded his authority when he reconsidered and issued the substituted award. The substituted award is therefore due to be vacated and the initial award confirmed.
The dispute arose after several employees of Verizon Florida were declared surplus. The cba provided (in Article XI, Section 2) that surplus employees could bump junior employees within the same or lower wage progression schedule. Article XI also provided that an employee seeking to bump another
must have the ability to perform any job which he/she seeks to obtain through bumping. If it is a job which the employee has previously held, the employee will be allowed a reasonable period of time for re-familiarization and, if the job is one which he/she has not previously held, the employee must be able to perform the job with minimum additional training.
At the arbitration hearing the parties declined to stipulate an issue. The arbitrator framed the issue and, after reviewing the evidence and the cba, concluded that two of the nine grievants had previously held the position they sought to bump into and that they should have been allowed to bump into those positions. He rejected the grievance as it applied to the other grievants.
After the award, the Union requested clarification, maintaining that two additional employees had also previously held the position they sought to bump into and should therefore have been allowed to bump. Verizon opposed this request and also sought reconsideration, claiming that the issue of whether grievant's had previously held the job they sought to bump into was not properly before the arbitrator, and that the only issue was whether the grievants would require more than minimal training to perform the job. Three days after Verizon sought reconsideration the arbitrator issued a substituted decision, captioned "Order on Cross-Motions for Clarification/Change and Substituted Arbitrator's Award. In the new award the arbitrator indicated he had been persuaded that his earlier award had, in fact, relied on a contract provision not submitted for consideration. His new award deleted reference to whether the grievants' had previously held the position and rejected the grievances of all employees.
The Union sought to vacate the second award while Verizon sought to confirm the second.
Ruling on both motions the Court concluded:
The court explained:
Finding that the question initially decided by the arbitrator was within the issue submitted, and that none of the exceptions applied, the court concluded that the arbitrator was without authority to reconsider his decision as Verizon had requested.