Union arbitrator can decide guilt, but not punishment — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Union arbitrator can decide guilt, but not punishment

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

When an employer and a union agree on the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, they often include an arbitration process to interpret the agreement. Thus, if the agreement includes specific disciplinary provisions, it’s up to an arbitrator to determine if an employee violated the rules.

But if the agreement spells out the punishment, the arbitrator is not free to modify the penalty.

Recent case: The collective bargaining agreement in force where Mark worked defined acts that were grounds for termination, and it provided for arbitration of any disputes.

Mark was caught relaxing in restaurants and parks while on duty. An arbitrator concluded that Mark had not been working when he should have been and therefore was guilty of dishonesty. The arbitrator reviewed the collective bargaining agreement and agreed that dishonesty was a firing offense. However, the arbitrator said the punishment was too severe and ordered reinstatement without back pay.

The employer appealed. The court concluded that the arbitrator had gone too far. His job under the collective bargaining agreement was simply to determine whether Mark broke the rule against dishonesty. He had no right to alter the punishment. (CenterPoint Energy v. Gas Workers Union, No. 16-CV-3543, DC MN, 2017)

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