Grievance Procedure Must Be Exhausted Prior To Bringing Lawsuit

A memorandum of agreement between the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association and the City of Buffalo, New York provides that “in the event the minimum for a rank position falls below the stated minimum, the vacancy shall be filled within 45 days of the created vacancy.” When the Association attempted to enforce the staffing agreement through a lawsuit, the City challenged the Association’s failure to exhaust the grievance procedure in the collective bargaining agreement between the parties.

New York’s Appellate Division agreed with the City, and dismissed the lawsuit. The Court observed that “it is the rule in New York that once it is established that a petitioner is obligated to arbitrate his or her grievance under an applicable collective bargaining agreement, the failure to do so operates as a bar to a lawsuit. Article XI of the collective bargaining agreement provides that any grievance or dispute between the parties shall be settled through a four-step grievance procedure culminating in binding arbitration. There is no question that the issues raised by the Association in this proceeding fall within the broad scope of the grievance procedure established by the collective bargaining agreement and, indeed, the Association has previously grieved alleged violations of the 45-day rule.”

Meagan v. Brown, 885 N.Y.S.2d 854 (A.D. 2009).

This article appears in the January 2010 issue