Court Refuses To Overturn Arbitration Awards Favoring Firefighters

The City of North Olmstead, Ohio challenged two arbitration decisions rendered in favor of Local 1267 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The first, referred to as the “Hayford Award,” found that the City had unlawfully changed call-in practices for overtime assignments, and required the City to rescind its change in past practice. The second, know as the “Klein Award,” required the City to follow the definition of the overtime rate of pay established in accordance with a memorandum of understanding that had been agreed to two years before.

The City argued that both arbitrators exceeded their authority by interpreting and applying what it referred to as “extraneous policy documents, including the MOU on the overtime rate and the Department’s Overtime Station Manning And Callback Procedures.” The Ohio Court of Appeals disagreed, and upheld the arbitrators’ awards.

With respect to the Klein Award, the Court noted that the Arbitrator had found that the MOU on the overtime rate of pay was “the best evidence of the parties’ intent. In sum, the City seeks to have the Arbitrator interpret the collective bargaining agreement contrary to the parties’ own understanding of its terms.” The Court found that “it is evident that Arbitrator Klein did not add to, subtract from, or in any manner alter the specific terms of the contract. It is apparent to this Court that Arbitrator Klein’s award draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement of the parties, and that a rational nexus exists between the agreement and the Arbitrator’s award.”

With respect to the Hayford Award, the Court concluded that the Department’s call-in policy referenced by the Arbitrator was not beyond his authority. The Court observed that the Arbitrator “recognized that the City had an obligation to bargain any changes to established conditions of employment, including those established under the call-back procedures. The Arbitrator determined that the City’s unilateral implementation of a change violated the maintenance of benefits clause in the contract. Our review reflects that the Arbitrator’s award draws its essence from the contract.”

City of North Olmstead v. International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1267, 2009 WL 547452 (Ohio App. 2009).

This article appears in the June 2009 issue