January 30, 2013
Failing to comply with the notice requirements for filing a demand for arbitration set out in the collective bargaining agreement is a fatal procedural defect
In the Matter of the Arbitration between Livingston County and the Livingston County Civil Serv. Employees Assn., Inc., Local 1000, 2012 NY Slip Op 08985, Appellate Division, Fourth Department
The County and Local 1000 of the Civil Service Employees Association, Inc. were involved in a grievance that was at the various steps set out in the CBA’s contract grievance procedure article. Ultimately the County denied the grievance by a written decision dated October 4, 2011. CSEA then advised the County by a letter dated October 27, 2011 that it intended to submit the grievance to arbitration. The County received CSEA’s letter on October 28, 2011.
The critical provision in the CBA central to this litigation required "[c]ompliance with the time limits for submitting a notice of intent to arbitrate [and such compliance] shall be a condition precedent to arbitration". The CBA also included a provision stating that "Failure to submit a notice of intent to submit a grievance to arbitration . . . shall thus bar the grievance from proceeding to arbitration."
The time limits set out in the CBA required that the party demanding arbitration must notify the other party of its intention to submit the matter to arbitration “no later than 15 working days after a written decision was issued at the second step of the grievance process.”
Livingston County asked Supreme Court to stay arbitration, contending that CSEA’s demand to submit the grievance to arbitration was untimely as it had not been notified of CSEA’s intent to do so within 15 working days of date of its denial of the grievance.
Supreme Court denied the County’s petition; the Appellate Division unanimously reversed the lower court ruling “on the law.”
The Appellate Division explained that although the CBA between the parties sets out a “broad arbitration agreement,” it also contains an express provision establishing a condition precedent to submitting the matter to arbitration and CSEA had not complied with this condition precedent..
The court also noted that where such a condition precedent is expressly made part of the CBA, the issue of compliance with the condition is for the court to decide in the first instance.
The decision is posted on the Internet at:http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_08985.htm
Reprinted with permission New York Public Personnel Law
Mitchell H. Rubinstein