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City of Springfield v. United Public Service Employees Union (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-035-16)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   15-P-742                                        Appeals Court   CITY OF SPRINGFIELD  vs.  UNITED PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION. No. 15-P-742. Hampden.     February 11, 2016. – March 25, 2016.   Present:  Kafker, C.J., Rubin, & Agnes, JJ. Arbitration, Collective bargaining, Authority of arbitrator, Judicial review.  Employment, Sexual harassment, Termination.  Public Policy.  Public Employment, Collective bargaining, Termination, Reinstatement of personnel.  Civil Service, Termination of employment, Reinstatement of personnel.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January 2, 2014.   The case was heard by John S. Ferrara, J.     Gordon D. Quinn for the plaintiff. Lan T. Kantany for the defendant.     KAFKER, C.J.  The issue presented is whether an arbitrator exceeded her authority when she ordered a terminated employee reinstated without loss of pay or other rights, even though she found that he had engaged in conduct amounting to sexual harassment.  Because the mitigating circumstances the arbitrator identified supported her determination that the employer lacked just cause for termination, and her order does not preclude appropriate remedial action to address the employee’s sexual harassment, we conclude that her award does not offend public policy or require a result prohibited by statute.  We therefore affirm the Superior Court judge’s decision confirming the validity of the award. 1.  Background.  The city of Springfield (city) discharged Gregory Ashe, a long-time employee, following an investigation and hearing after a coworker complained of sexually inappropriate conduct.  Ashe, through his union, grieved the city’s decision to terminate his employment.  Pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the case was submitted to an arbitrator.  The parties presented the following question:  ”Was the termination of the Grievant Gregory Ashe supported by just cause?  If not, what shall be the remedy?”  After two days of hearings, the arbitrator issued her award.  She determined that much of the alleged harassing conduct did occur, but found that mitigating circumstances meant there was not just cause for termination.  She concluded:  ”As a remedy, the Grievant is entitled to be reinstated to his position without loss of compensation or other rights.” The city sought to vacate the award in the Superior Court under G. L. c. 150C, § 11.  In its appeal, the city argued that the arbitrator exceeded her authority under the CBA by reinstating the employee in direct violation of the public policy and statutory requirements governing sexual harassment.  The judge, in […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - March 25, 2016 at 3:52 pm

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