CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp., doing business as CenterPoint Energy Minnesota Gas, Plaintiff- Appellee,
Gas Workers Union, Local No. 340, affiliated with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO, Defendant-Appellant.
Submitted: February 14, 2018
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
SMITH, Chief Judge, MURPHY and COLLOTON, Circuit
COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Workers Union, Local No. 340 appeals the district court's
order vacating an arbitration award. The award reinstated a
union member to his former position without back pay after he
was discharged by the company. Because the arbitrator was at
least arguably construing the contract between the parties in
making the award, the arbitrator's decision should not
have been vacated, and we therefore reverse the judgment of
the district court.
Energy Resources Corporation offers maintenance and repair
services for furnaces, air conditioners, and appliances. Mark
Ness was employed by CenterPoint as a service technician. The
Union is party to a collective bargaining agreement with
CenterPoint, and service technicians like Ness are part of
the bargaining unit represented by the Union.
technicians are assigned to a geographic service area. They
use laptops equipped with a global positioning system (GPS)
to receive work orders, to record when they begin and
complete a service call, and to input remarks about the work
performed. Service technicians are required to keep accurate
2015, a supervisor questioned Ness about alleged
discrepancies between Ness's time sheet entries and
CenterPoint's GPS records about where Ness was located on
four separate dates earlier in the year. CenterPoint
ultimately terminated Ness in September 2015 for falsifying
his time sheets and neglect of duty. The Union, on behalf of
Ness, protested his discharge. After CenterPoint denied the
Union's grievance, the Union appealed to arbitration in
accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
26 of the collective bargaining agreement, entitled
"Discipline and Discharge," provides:
The Company has the right to employ or promote in accordance
with the provisions of this Agreement, to enforce discipline,
to discharge employees for cause, including failure to
recognize authority .... Without excluding other causes for
discharge, the following shall constitute absolute causes
from which there shall be no appeal to negotiation or
arbitration between the Company and the Union (except that
the question of whether the employee has been guilty of the
facts constituting such absolute causes shall be a negotiable
1. Use of, or being under the influence of, alcohol or
nonmedical drugs at any time during the work day.
3. Neglect of ...