A federal appeals court has stressed the high level of deference the FLRA must give to arbitrators’ decisions, overturning a ruling in favor of management in a case involving the cancellation of a contract.
The case involved a charge by the National Weather Service Employees Organization that the National Weather Service had violated a contract by canceling it while negotiations were still going on and after assistance by the Federal Services Impasses Panel had been invoked but before that panel had made a decision.
An arbitrator agreed with the union in a decision that turned on an interpretation of when formal negotiations had begun; the contract provided that either party could cancel the contract but only after at least 90 days of negotiations and only if assistance of the FSIP had not been invoked.
However, the FLRA overruled, saying the arbitrator had interpreted those provisions incorrectly.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, though, said that the FLRA must uphold an arbitrator’s decision unless it is “contrary to any law, rule, or regulation,” or “on other grounds similar to those applied by federal courts in private sector labor-management relations”—even if it is convinced that the arbitrator committed an error.
Whether the arbitrator correctly interpreted the contract “was beyond the scope of the Authority’s review” and the FLRA further “offered no analysis” for concluding that the decision was incorrect, it said in sending the case back to the FLRA.