Connecticut Continues To March To Own Drummer On Appeals Of Arbitration Decisions

In the wake of the United States Supreme Court decisions calling for great deference to the decisions of arbitrators, the courts in most states refuse to overturn arbitrators’ decisions. Most courts conclude that if the parties to a collective bargaining agreement have voluntarily chosen binding arbitration as an alternative method of resolving contract disputes, they are bound by that choice of forums. The majority rule is that arbitrators can be wrong on the facts and wrong on the law, and still have their opinions upheld.

Connecticut is in the small minority of states that do not follow this general rule. As former Police Officer Earl Stanley of the Ansonia, Connecticut Police Department learned, Connecticut gives a broad scope to a “public policy” exception that allows its courts to overturn arbitrators’ decisions.

Stanley was terminated by the City following complaints of harassment, intimidation, and false statements to the Department. Four women complained of inappropriate language and conduct by Stanley, including use of sexual language, grabbing at their buttocks, harassment with a police car’s flashing lights, and observation by Stanley of one of the women while she was getting out of the shower.

An arbitration panel concluded that the City had violated Stanley’s procedural rights and did not have just cause to terminate his employment. The arbitration panel ordered that Stanley be reinstated without back pay.

The Connecticut Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the arbitration panel. The Court found that there was a clearly defined public policy against stalking and harassment, particularly of a sexual nature. The Court held that “when a municipal employee violates public policies enumerated in state statutes and employment regulations, a reviewing court cannot enforce an arbitration award reinstating him to employment as a police officer. Here, the Arbitrators made factual findings that Stanley engaged in inappropriate behavior, used his position of authority to influence and intimidate the victims, and made misleading statements during the internal affairs investigation. Accordingly, it is against well-defined public policy for a court to enforce an order reinstating Stanley.”

Board of Police Commissioners of the City of Ansonia v. Stanley, 92 Ct.App. 723 (2005).

This article appears in the February 2006 issue