Cases of Note

Witco Corp. v. Oil, Chem. & Atomic Workers Int'l Union, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 17986

July 28th, 1999

OVERVIEW: After an employee was fired by appellee for violating safety procedures, appellant union filed a grievance on the employee's behalf, and the case reached an arbitrator. The arbitrator directed the reinstatement of the employee, finding that the violations did not constitute just cause for dismissal. Appellee filed an action in district court to set the award aside. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of appellee and vacated the arbitrator's award. The union filed an appeal. The court held that as long as the arbitrator was acting within the scope of his authority under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the court should defer to his decision. Although the arbitrator expressly found that the employee was negligent, negligence alone did not constitute grounds for immediate dismissal under the CBA. Although, the arbitrator did not expressly find whether the employee's negligence might have resulted in injury or damage, it was clear that from his opinion that he was well aware of the applicable standard for discharge for cause. Because the award derived its essence from the CBA, it should have been upheld, and the district court erred.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for reinstatement of the arbitrator's award because the arbitrator did not find that appellee had cause to terminate the employee and that the arbitrator did not make findings of fact that would unavoidably lead to a finding of cause. Thus, there was no basis for concluding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in awarding reinstatement.  (Click here for opinion)

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