Sunday, May 31, 2015

Arbitrator rejects grievance but imposes a remedy - Union succeeds in vacating award

The cba between North Memorial Health Care and The Minnesota Nurses Association provides that an employee with thirty years service cannot be required to work weekends unless compliance would "deprive patients of needed nursing service." When grievant reached her thirty year mark she requested to be exempt from weekend work. Her request was denied, however, because the institution deemed the request inconsistent with necessary patient care. The Union grieved the denial, and the dispute was submitted to Arbitrator Richard John Miller.

Arbitrator Miller denied the grievance, finding that the contract expressly allowed the institution to invoke a patient care exception. He noted, however, that it would be arbitrary  and discriminatory to allow the Medical Center to deny grievant the opportunity to decline weekend work while allowing other, similarly situated employees, to do so. Accordingly he ordered that "if [North Memorial] invokes the 'exception' proviso to compel qualifying nurses to work on weekends the number of required weekends shall be equally shared (divided) among those qualifying nurses. . . ."

 MNA moved to vacate the award. The Union claimed that the Arbitrator had exceeded his authority by deciding an issue not submitted to him, and by effectively nullifying other provisions of the cba which prohibited a change in a nurse's written work schedule without the employee's consent.

The District Court agreed with both claims. It determined first  that:

The record reflects that neither party expressly asked the arbitrator to devise a remedy in the event he found a violation of the CBA. Of course, it may be implied that the parties agreed a remedy should issue if a violation occurred, as MNA suggested various scenarios in which it believed North Memorial could meet patient care needs while still offering the no weekend work benefit to Drake. ... Here, however, Miller found no violation but nonetheless imposed additional obligations on the parties. ... There is no indication that the parties intended Miller to issue a remedy without first finding a violation on the part of North Memorial. Indeed, Miller's own issue statement premised fashioning an appropriate remedy on first finding a CBA violation. .... Because Miller strayed beyond the issues submitted to him, vacatur is warranted.

The Court also agreed that by requiring North Memorial to divide weekend shifts equally among nurses who qualify for the no weekend benefit the award nullified other articles of the cba. The Court found this to be an independent basis for setting aside the award. 

The Court's decision in Minnesota Nurses Association v. North Memorial Health Care and North Memorial Medical Center can be found here.

Update: The Eight Circuit has affirmed the District Court's decision here.

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