By Richard Birke
Following is the start of a new series on the JAMS ADR Blog, featuring short synopses of recent case rulings related to arbitration or ADR. We’re excited to share this information as we know this is an area that will be of interest to our readers and those in the legal industry.
Mailing Equals Filing for Purposes of Determining Whether Arbitration Initiated in Timely Fashion
Garcia v. Dept. of Homeland Security
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
Alberto Garcia was dismissed from his job with Homeland Security for alleged misconduct. 28 days later, his union mailed a letter to the agency requesting arbitration. The agency received the letter seven days later. The agency moved to dismiss the dispute for failure to follow the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement, which stated that requests for arbitration “must be filed … not later than 30 calendar days after the effective date of the action.” The arbitrator sided with the agency and Garcia appealed.
The United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit analyzed the meaning of the word “filed” and found that in this context, “the definition of ‘filed’ should be construed [to mean that] a document is filed at the time of mailing.” The Court concluded that “the requirement in Article 34, Section A that a request for arbitration must be filed … not later than thirty (30) calendar days after the effective date of [the Agency’s] action is satisfied when the request is mailed before the thirty-day deadline…Accordingly, we reverse the Arbitrator’s dismissal for failure to timely file a request for arbitration and remand for further proceedings.”
Subsequent Firing Does Not Conflict with Arbitral Award Requiring Reinstatement
Fraternal Order of Police (Metro Transit Police Labor Committee) v. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
The Fraternal Order of Police signed a collective bargaining agreement with a compact of jurisdictions associated with the metro D.C. transit system. Two of the officers were terminated (for punching a passenger, lying under oath, sexually harassing a colleague and more). After arbitration, they were reinstated.
The transit system rehired them and put them on paid leave while they applied for reinstatement as police officers. When the Maryland police authorities declined to reinstate the two, the transit system fired them because, without certification, they were ineligible to continue as transit officers.
FOP sued, arguing that transit failed to follow the arbitrator’s award. The trial judge agreed and ordered the pair reinstated. The judge denied transit’s motion for reconsideration and transit appealed.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed. It agreed with transit that the proper course of action for the aggrieved officers was to grieve and then arbitrate the second termination, not to file the instant action. Because transit rehired the pair until they were fired for an independent (if not unrelated) reason, transit had complied with the award.