Arbitrator, Not Courts, Should Decide The Arbitration Provisions Complied With

Ativa Stevenson, a corrections officer with the New York Department of Correctional Services, was arrested on December 30, 2003. The Department served notice of discipline of Stevenson the following day.

Stevenson filed a disciplinary grievance, which was ultimately referred to arbitration. The Arbitrator initially scheduled a hearing for March 29, 2004. On the request of the Department, and over Stevenson’s objections, the Arbitrator postponed the hearing.

Stevenson then sued, alleging that the postponement of the hearing without his consent constituted a breach of the collective bargaining agreement between his labor organization and the State. The contract clearly provided that “arbitration hearings may not be rescheduled without mutual consent of the parties.” The Court rejected Stevenson’s lawsuit. The Court found that the contract clause “is not a condition precedent to arbitration, but rather is in the nature of a procedural stipulation that the parties have laid down to be observed in the conduct of the arbitration proceeding itself. Whether this provision has been violated and the consequences that flow there from are matters for the Arbitrator to resolve.”

Stevenson v. State of New York Department of Correctional Services, 2005 WL 2297070 (App.Div. 2005).

This article appears in the November 2005 issue