Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Monday, March 11, 2013

Reinstatement of School Bus Driver Who Tested Positive For Pot Does Not Violate Public Policy

The NY Court of Appeals recently issued an important decision concerning public policy and arbitration. The Court holds that an arbitrator's award reinstating a teacher who tested positive for pot did not violate public policy. The Court reasoned:

We have recognized "three narrow grounds that may form the basis for vacating an arbitrator's award — that it violates public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power" (Matter of New York City Tr. Auth. v Transport Workers Union of Am., Local 100, 14 NY3d 119, 123 [2010] [citations and internal quotation marks omitted]). None of these grounds has been established here.

The arbitrator's decision did not exceed a specific limitation on his power; nor was it irrational. Rather, he determined that, contrary to the School District's argument, the parties' agreement did not require the penalty of termination in these circumstances and that the District did not in fact have a zero tolerance policy. The consequent determination that reinstatement with conditions was the appropriate penalty did not violate public policy (see Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v Mine Workers, 531 US 57 [2000]). "That reasonable minds might disagree over what the proper penalty should have been does not provide a basis for vacating the arbitral award or refashioning the penalty" (City School Dist. of the City of N.Y. v McGraham, 17 NY3d 917, 920 [2011]). 

The decision is Sehnedehowa Central School Dist. v. CSEA, 2013 NY Slip Op. 0085 (Feb. 12, 2013),  Download Matter of Shenendehowa Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. (Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Local 864) (2013 NY Slip Op 00885)


Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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