Length of Probationary Term for New County Employees Is Arbitrable Under the Two-Prong Test
Reversing Supreme Court, the Third Department determined the grievance concerning the length of the probationary period for new employees was arbitrable. The union contended the county had imposed a longer period of probation on a new employee than the 26 weeks allowed by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The county civil service commission, prior to the execution of the CBA, had adopted a resolution describing the period of probation for new employees as ranging from 8 to 52 to weeks. The Third Department determined there was no statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition to arbitration of the grievance. And the broad arbitration clause in the CBA covered the grievance at issue:
The threshold determination of whether a dispute is arbitrable is well settled. Proceeding with a two-part test, we first ask whether the parties may arbitrate the dispute by inquiring if there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance. If no prohibition exists, we then ask whether the parties in fact agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement. If there is a prohibition, our inquiry ends and an arbitrator cannot act” … .
To be sure, “[w]hen a county civil service commission, possessing the requisite authority, promulgates a rule establishing the length of a probationary term of service, that rule has the effect of law”… , and the public employer and the union cannot negotiate a contrary provision in a CBA. Here, however, the CBA executed by the County and the Union long after the Commission modified the probationary term is not inconsistent with the new Commission rule, as the probationary term negotiated by the parties falls squarely within the range promulgated by the Commission. Therefore, we discern no statutory or public policy bar to arbitration of the grievance in the first instance … . Hence, we are satisfied that the parties may in fact arbitrate the underlying dispute. As to the second inquiry, i.e., whether the parties actually agreed to arbitrate this particular dispute, we note that the parties’ CBA contains a broad arbitration clause, which encompasses “any claimed violation, misrepresentation or improper application” of the CBA. In light of such language, we similarly are persuaded that the Union’s grievance falls within the scope of disputes that the parties agreed to submit to arbitration … . Matter of County of Greene (Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc., Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Greene County Unit 7000, Greene County Local 820), 2015 NY Slip Op 04709, 3rd Dept 6-4-15