Changes In Staffing Rule Subject To Arbitration

Beginning in 1999, the Chief of Police of the Village of Horseheads, New York issued a series of general orders setting forth various rules and regulations relative to departmental operating procedures and policies. The rules included General Order A–13.1, which required that a minimum of two officers be assigned to patrol duty for each shift. In 2011, a new chief reissued General Order A–13.1, reducing the minimum staffing requirement to at least one patrol officer per shift.

The Horseheads Police Benevolent Association filed a grievance challenging the change in the staffing rule. The City then filed a lawsuit seeking a stay of arbitration, contending that there was no valid agreement between the parties to arbitrate changes or amendments to general orders.

An appeals court ordered the City to arbitrate the grievance. The Court observed that “the parties expressly agreed to arbitrate any unresolved grievance and, further, broadly defined a grievance to include ‘any claimed violation, misinterpretation or inequitable application of existing laws, rules, procedures, regulations, application or enforcement of the terms of this agreement, administrative orders or work orders or rules of the Village. The Village does not dispute that General Order A–13.1 constitutes ‘rules and regulations’ within the meaning of the CBA, nor does it deny that a claimed violation thereof is subject to the established grievance procedure and – should that process fail – arbitration. Rather, the Village contends that its Chief of Police did not ‘violate’ the foregoing general orders; he merely ‘amended’ or ‘changed’ them – as was his prerogative. Thus, the argument continues, respondent may – consistent with the terms of the CBA – grieve the violation of a rule or regulation, but it cannot grieve an amendment or alteration thereto.

“Whether the asserted amendments constitute an actual violation of a rule or regulation goes to the merits of the grievance itself, not to its arbitrability, and hence is a matter for the arbitrator to resolve. For purposes of our limited inquiry, it is sufficient that respondent has asserted a ‘claimed violation’ of certain rules and regulations and that a ‘claimed violation’ is, in turn, subject to the grievance procedure set forth in the CBA.”

In re Village of Horseheads (Horseheads Police Benev. Ass’n, Inc.), 2012 WL 1123755 (N.Y. A.D. 3 Dept. 2012).