USPS Challenges NALC Arbitration Award – Court Sends Case Back to Arbitrator

On or before July 23, 2009, NALC filed a grievance alleging that USPS violated a local memorandum of understanding and Article 8 of the National Agreement when scheduling letter carriers to work overtime.
note: The grievance was initially filed by a NALC branch in Ohio.

Arbitrator Virginia Wallace-Curry heard the grievance and issued an award in favor of NALC on April 30, 2010. In her decision, Arbitrator Wallace-Curry held that the period of liability extended from July 13, 2009, through the date of her award, April 30, 2010. The award expressly acknowledges that NALC only presented evidence up to August 4, 2009.

USPS filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an order vacating that portion of an April 30, 2010 arbitration decision awarding damages for the period August 5, 2009, to April 30, 2010. USPS was not challenging the arbitrator’s decision that it violated the National Agreement and the Local Memorandum of Understanding, nor the award of damages for the period July 13, 2009, through August 4, 2009.

USPS argued:

The award is not within the arbitrator’s authority as defined by the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.

The award fails to “draw its essence” from the collective bargaining agreement because the arbitrator awarded damages based on no evidence of liability for the period of time from August 5, 2009 to April 30, 2010.

In summary, USPS argues that the portion of the arbitrator’s decision awarding damages from August 5, 2009 forward must be vacated because there was no evidence presented at the arbitration past August 4, 2009. NALC maintained that the arbitrator must have heard and credited evidence of a continuing violation past August 4, 2009, and that the Court should simply remand the case back to the arbitrator to clarify this point.

The District court ruled:

The Court agreed in part and disagreed in part with each side, and determined to vacate and remand that portion of the arbitrator’s decision awarding monetary damages AFTER August 4, 2009. The Court’s role in this matter is to determine whether the record sufficiently supports the arbitrator’s factual findings, AK Steel Corp. v. United Steelworkers of America, 163 F.3d 403, 407 (6th Cir. 1998), and to make sure that the arbitrator did not act beyond her authority by entering an award that lacks rational support. DBM Technologies, Inc. v. Local 227, United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union, 257 F.3d 651, 659 (6th Cir. 2001). The date of the incident that precipitated the grievance was July 13, 2009. The problem with the arbitrator’s decision is that she specifically states that “[t]o illustrate the ongoing nature of the grievance, the Union presented evidence up [sic] August 4, 2009,” but two sentences later finds, without any evidentiary support, “[t]he dates from July 13, 2009 to the date of this award must be included in the remedy.”

It is axiomatic that to support an award of damages past August 4, 2009, there must be evidence to support a violation past that date. There may have in fact been evidence produced during the arbitration which the arbitrator credited to support this conclusion, but the arbitrator stated that evidence was produced only through August 4. There was no transcript made of this arbitration, so the Court is not in the position to resolve this factual issue. An additional concern is that there is no indication that the record was supplemented after the hearing, so there seems to be no conceivable basis for an award of damages from the date of the hearing (February 9, 2010) to the date of the decision (April 30, 2010).

Accordingly, the Court VACATES that portion of the arbitrator’s decision awarding monetary damages for the period August 5, 2009, through April 30, 2010, and REMANDS this matter to the arbitrator. If the arbitrator wishes to award monetary damages past August 5, 2009, all she need do is recite that evidence was produced during the arbitration establishing a violation by USPS continuing up to and including the date she is awarding monetary damages

2 thoughts on “USPS Challenges NALC Arbitration Award – Court Sends Case Back to Arbitrator

  1. To union rep: You are so right the usps is getting worse and worse by the day. Furthermore the court has acted illegally in accepting the case after hearing it anyway. Arbitration and grievances are just what they are they are part of the collective bargaining agreement the nalc and usps accepted and you can’t go cry to daddy (the court) when mom(arbitrators) told you what things were going to be. Especially after you agree to accept arbitration that means you win some and lose some and that is final and binding as you said. If you and I agree to bring in a neutral 3rd party and I take you to court because things with arbitration went wrong after the court is informed that we had an agreement to settle things like that. They are legally and morally bound to refuse the case.

  2. Arbitration awards used to be “final and binding.” That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The USPS tactic at MSPB and EEOC of endless motions and appeals is spilling over into the grievance procedure.

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