Costs Are Legitimate Reason Not To Arbitrate Grievance

Written on 08/07/2021
Will Aitchison

The Sussex County PBA represents all corrections officers, sergeants, lieu­tenants, and captains employed by the Sheriff’s Office. Paul Liobe was a cor­rections officer with the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey and was president of the PBA.

On July 25, 2019, Liobe filed a griev­ance alleging that the Sheriff’s Office failed to properly compensate him at the special events overtime rate for an overtime detail. Liobe later demanded binding arbitration on behalf of the PBA. However, on October 31, 2019, Liobe was laid off from his employment with the Sheriff’s Office.

On February 27, 2020, the PBA’s newly-elected President, James Aumick, formally withdrew the PBA’s grievance in an email to the arbitrator, Liobe, and counsel for the Sheriff’s Office. Aumick cited the costs of arbitrating the grievance as well as doubts about the merits of the grievance. Liobe responded by filing a duty of fair representation claim against the PBA.

New Jersey’s Public Employment Relations Commission dismissed Liobe’s claim. PERC noted that it “has held that a union should exercise reasonable care in investigating grievances and evaluate the merits of requests for arbitration in good faith. However, the duty of fair representation does not require a union to arbitrate every grievance.

“This case does not involve a situa­tion where the union initially pursued or stated it would pursue arbitration, but failed to arbitrate with no reasonable basis. Here, it was Liobe himself, as PBA President, who filed his own grievance and demanded binding arbitration on behalf of himself and others regarding the overtime details. When Liobe was no longer employed by the Sheriff’s Office and no longer PBA President, the new PBA leadership evaluated his pending grievance arbitration and determined not to pursue it.

“Aumick stated that the PBA does not support proceeding with arbitration and cited legal expenses as a reason for why withdrawing the arbitration is ‘for the best interest of our local.’ As for his evaluation of Liobe’s grievance on the merits, Aumick explained that the PBA’s interpretation of the contract was not compatible with Liobe’s assertion that the contract supports the payment of ‘special events overtime.’

“Based upon the above, we find that Liobe has not asserted facts that, if true, would establish that the PBA acted arbitrarily or in bad faith in its evaluation that Liobe’s grievance was not likely to succeed on the merits and its determination that it was in the best interest of the PBA not to pursue this arbitration but to instead collectively negotiate the issue of special events overtime into the contract. The PBA’s decision not to arbitrate Liobe’s grievance falls within the range of reasonableness a majority representative must be af­forded in servicing the unit as a whole which does not necessarily satisfy every individual unit employee. Accordingly, we find that Liobe’s charge against the PBA does not support a breach of the duty of fair representation.”

Sussex County Sheriff’s Office, 47 NJPER ¶ 123 (NJ PERC 2021).

The post Costs Are Legitimate Reason Not To Arbitrate Grievance appeared first on Labor Relations Information System.