The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed a grievance solely on behalf of Andrew Markowitz, a police officer with the City of Miami. The grievance claimed that the City was required to provide but denied light-duty work to Markowitz as he recovered from an off-duty injury. The FOP, on behalf of Markowitz, went through each step of the grievance procedure as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the City denied Markowitz relief at each step.
Subsequent to the City’s final denial, the FOP requested arbitration pursuant to the provisions of the contract. At the beginning of the arbitration hearing, the FOP brought in several officers to testify, claiming that each of these officers, as well as others, had also been denied light duty by the City after an off-duty injury. The FOP claimed that, as such, the arbitration was being brought as a class action on behalf of these and other similarly situated officers.
The City objected to inclusion of any other aggrieved party, and argued that it had never been advised that the FOP was seeking relief as a class action grievance on behalf of other similarly affected FOP members. The FOP claimed that the City had verbal notice that the arbitration was being brought as a class action and that the City had agreed to it. The Arbitrator concluded that the Markowitz grievance should be considered a class action and proceeded to take testimony.
Rejecting the City’s arguments, the Arbitrator entered an award granting relief to all FOP members who were injured off duty without regard to length of time of light duty, and awarded benefits not requested by Markowitz, including reinstatement. The City then filed a petition in court to vacate the arbitration award.
The Florida Court of Appeals agreed with the City, and vacated those aspects of the award that gave damages to any party other than Markowitz. The Court held that “the FOP failed to bring the grievance as a class action by failing to reduce the demand to writing as the contract requires. Nothing put the City on notice that the arbitration would proceed as a class action. Notwithstanding the FOP’s assertion that there was an oral agreement, no provision of the contract allows for oral notification of any form of grievance. To the contrary, paragraph 6.8 of the contract expressly provides that the parties must mutually agree in writing as to the statement of the matter to be arbitrated prior to a hearing.
“The only written claim was brought by the FOP on behalf of Markowitz. Paragraph 6.8 additionally provides that the Arbitrator has no authority to modify or rewrite the agreement and he is bound by it. Therefore, the Arbitrator in this case exceeded his power in expanding the grievance filed in writing exclusively on behalf of Markowitz by the FOP to include not only bargaining unit members who testified at the hearing, but anyone who was denied light duty because the injury or illness occurred off duty, and by awarding damages beyond the parameters of the Markowitz grievance and in excess of what was requested in the Markowitz grievance form.”
Markowitz v. City of Miami, 56 So.3d 109 (Fla. App. 3 Dist. 2011).
This article appears in the August 2011 Issue