The most recent edition of the Massachusetts Law Review features an article by Sandulli Grace attorney John M. Becker entitled, “The Role of Public Policy in Judicial Review of Massachusetts Public Sector Labor Arbitration Awards.” The article reviews the decision by the Supreme Judicial Court in City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, 477 Mass. 434 (2017) in light of the history of court review of labor arbitration in Massachusetts, with a particular focus on public policy. The article discusses three ways in which public policy plays a role in judicial review of arbitration:
- the policy in favor of resolving labor disputes through arbitration, and against judicial interference in such disputes;
- the public policy exception to labor arbitration awards, a court-created doctrine used to overturn certain decisions by arbitrators that violate public policy; and
- the nondelegability doctrine, pursuant to which the courts have found that some arbitration awards (and the collective bargaining agreements they are enforcing) are unenforceable because they impinge on the management rights of the public employer.
In addition to tracing the history of public sector labor arbitration and public policy, Attorney Becker provides his opinions on certain key legal questions, including:
- expressing a concern that after a court finds certain CBA language is unenforceable under the nondelegability doctrine, the Union has no opportunity to go back to the bargaining table to obtain a replacement benefit for the one that was lost;
- opining that, in cases involving awards reinstating discharged employees, the public policy exception should be restricted to cases in which a specific law requires termination – and only termination – as a punishment for the named offense; and
- advocating that the contours of the nondelegablility doctrine should be consistent with cases under G.L. c. 150E defining mandatory and permissive subjects of bargaining.
Many of the cases discussed in the article were litigated by Attorney Becker or other Sandulli Grace attorneys, including: City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 477 Mass. 434 (2017); Adams v. City of Boston, 461 Mass. 602 (2012); City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 443 Mass. 813 (2005); School Comm. of Marshfield v. Marshfield Educ. Ass’n, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 743 (2014); City of Boston v. Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 74 Mass. App. Ct. 379 (2009); Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n v. City of Boston, 60 Mass. App. Ct. 672 (2004); and City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Ass’n, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 269 (1996).
Attorney Becker’s article can be found in Massachusetts Law Review Volume 100, No. 2 (March 2019). You can see the full article here. https://www.massbar.org/docs/default-source/publications-document-library/massachusetts-law-review/2018/mlrvol100no2.pdf?sfvrsn=4. The Massachusetts Law Review is published by the Massachusetts Bar Association.