Criteria for Arbitrability of Dispute Involving Public Employees Succinctly Explained
Reversing Supreme Court, the Second Department determined the dispute about compensation for police officers during Hurricane Sandy was arbitrable under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The court explained the relevant analytical criteria:
Public policy in New York favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes … . However, a dispute between a public sector employer and employee is only arbitrable if it satisfies a two-prong test … . “Initially, the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance” … . If there is no prohibition against the arbitration, the court must determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement … .
Here, the Village does not assert on appeal that arbitration of this grievance was prohibited by statute or public policy, and we find no such prohibition. “In analyzing whether the parties in fact agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute, a court is merely to determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA'” … . Here, the relevant arbitration provisions of the CBA are broad, as they provide for arbitration of any grievance, defined as “any claimed violation, misinterpretation or inequitable application of this Agreement,” which remains unresolved following completion of step three of the grievance procedure. Moreover, there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute, which involves compensation over a specific time period, and the general subject matter of the CBA … . Contrary to the Village’s contention, whether the evidence supports the grievance is a question for the arbitrator, and not the courts, to decide … .
Moreover, the Village’s contention that arbitration of the grievance was precluded because the PBA failed to comply with a condition precedent is without merit. The “threshold determination of whether a condition precedent to arbitration exists and whether it has been complied with, is for the court to determine” … . By contrast, “[q]uestions concerning compliance with a contractual step-by-step grievance process have been recognized as matters of procedural arbitrability to be resolved by the arbitrators, particularly in the absence of a very narrow arbitration clause or a provision expressly making compliance with the time limitations a condition precedent to arbitration” … . Matter of Incorporated Vil. of Floral Park v Floral Park Police Benevolent Assn., 2015 NY Slip Op 07026, 2nd Dept 9-30-15