Court Rejects Employer Efforts To Overturn Union Arbitration Victories

In two recent cases, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has flatly rejected efforts by public employers to overturn arbitrator awards in favor of unions representing criminal justice system employees.

It is a basic principle of Massachusetts labor law that courts generally cannot overturn an arbitrator’s decision except under very exceptional circumstances. It is similarly well established a court won’t overturn awards even it if believes the arbitrator made mistakes in interpreting the law or in determining the facts.

Despite the exceptionally high threshold, Massachusetts public employers routinely waste public time and resources by refusing to accept an arbitrator’s decision as binding and final. Public employers may feel encouraged – wrongly so – by the Court’s decision in by the Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen’s Assn., 443 Mass. 813 (2005) (aka DiSciullo). This case involved highly exceptional circumstances of when an award reinstating a police officer was reversed, because reinstatement of an officer found to have repeatedly lied under oath and filed false criminal charges (both felonies) would violate state law prohibiting felons from being police officers.

For detailed information see the following:

Sheriff of Suffolk County v. Jail Officers & Employees of Suffolk County, 03-P-1154 (Feb. 1, 2007)

Sheriff of Suffolk County v. AFSCME Council 93 (Feb. 13, 2007)

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