Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision On Police Subcontracting

Cleveland State University(CSU) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The Contract provides for the utilization of FOP members to provide police services within the jurisdiction of the University. The contract specifically states that CSU will not contract out bargaining unit work except under special circumstances, such as sporting events.

In 2011, CSU entered into a lease agreement with CSU Housing, LLC, a private Ohio limited liability company, to develop the Langston Apartment Complex, which is available for lease to CSU students and faculty. CSU police officers later learned that CSU Housing had hired off-duty Cleveland police officers to provide security at the Langston Complex. The Cleveland officers were employed by an intermediary known as Cleveland Watchmen.

The FOP filed a grievance challenging the hiring of Cleveland officers. The Arbitrator upheld the FOP’s grievance, finding that under the lease agreement between CSU and CSU Housing, providing police services at the Langston Complex is bargaining unit work. As a remedy, the Arbitrator ordered CSU to advise CSU Housing that it must first offer law enforcement work at the Langston to members of the FOP bargaining unit. The Arbitrator denied the FOP’s request for lost wages, finding that it would be unreasonable to award lost wages when the number of hours off-duty Cleveland police officers worked at the Langston was not clearly established.

CSU filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Arbitrator’s decision. The University contended that the Arbitrator’s decision should be overturned because it did not “draw its essence from the agreement between the parties.”

The Ohio Court of Appeals rejected the University’s arguments and upheld the Arbitrator’s decision. The Court recognized that “when the parties have agreed in a collective bargaining agreement to settle their disputes by using a mutually acceptable arbitrator rather than a judge, they have bargained for and agreed to accept the arbitrator’s findings of fact and interpretation of the contract. A reviewing court cannot reject an arbitrator’s findings of fact or interpretation of the contract simply because it disagrees with them.

“Once it is determined that the arbitrator’s award draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreement and is not unlawful, arbitrary, or capricious, a reviewing court’s inquiry for purposes of vacating an arbitrator’s award is at an end. An arbitration award draws its essence from an agreement where there is a rational nexus between the agreement and the award.

“Under the CBA and by virtue of the CSU Housing Lease, CSU is obligated to offer police services work first to FOP members and CSU’s police department is to be used at the Langston property, which houses CSU students and is located on CSU-owned property. It is apparent that the Arbitrator did not exceed his authority in reaching his decision, but merely interpreted the terms contained within the agreement in the context of the grievance presented.”

Cleveland State University v. Fraternal Order of Police, 2015 WL 7300326 (Ohio App. 2015).