In Connecticut, Challenges To Arbitrators’ Awards Must Occur Within 30 Days

Donald Rajtar is a police officer with the Town of Bloomfield, Connecticut. In March 2004, the City terminated Rajtar for failing to perform a complete investigation and fabricating false witness statements with respect to an incident at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant, as well as lying during the subsequent departmental internal affairs inquiry. Rajtar’s labor organization, the Connecticut Independent Police Union, Local 14, challenged the City’s decision in arbitration.

An arbitration panel overturned the discharge, and converted it to a 200-day suspension. The City challenged the Arbitrators’ opinion in court, filing an application to vacate the award 33 days after it received the award.

The Connecticut Supreme Court dismissed the City’s appeal. The Court cited a broad statute that applied to a variety of types of arbitration proceedings as providing “no motion to vacate, modify or correct an award may be made after 30 days from the notice of the award to the party to the arbitration who makes the motion.” The Court observed that “this broad language plainly states that the limitations period applies regardless of the grounds of the motion to vacate. It is neither qualified by, nor limited to, any particular grounds for the application and is not, therefore, ambiguous.”

The City argued that since it was challenging the Arbitrators’ decision on public policy grounds, the 30-day statute did not apply to it. As the City contended, the statute did not apply to “common law remedies, such as public policy claims, which existed prior to the enactment of the arbitration statutes in 1929, because case law is clear that the provisions of the statute are in addition to the common law causes of action to vacate an arbitration award.”

The Court disagreed. In the Court’s view, “a conclusion that public policy claims are not subject to the 30-day limitations period would undermine the Legislature’s well-established support of arbitration as a mechanism for the inexpensive and expedient resolution of private disputes.”

Town of Bloomfield v. Connecticut Independent Police Union, Local 14, 285 Conn. 278 (2008).

This article appears in the April 2008 issue