United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
WM CRITTENDEN OPERATIONS, LLC d/b/a WEST MEMPHIS HEALTH AND REHAB PLAINTIFF
UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS LOCAL UNION 1529 on behalf of JACQUELINE BROOKS DEFENDANT
Crittenden Operations, LLC d/b/a West Memphis Health and
Rehab's (“Rehab”) motion for summary judgment
[Doc. No. 12] is denied.
Brooks worked as a certified nursing assistant at Rehab, a
long-term care nursing home. Pl.'s Statement Facts
(“Pl.'s F.”) ¶¶ 1, 4, Doc. No. 14.
Rehab terminated Brooks after an incident in which Rehab
claims Brooks verbally abused a resident. Id.
¶¶ 30, 69. United Food and Commercial Workers Local
Union 1529 (“the Union”) filed a grievance on
Brooks's behalf regarding her termination. Id.
¶¶ 69-70. Rehab denied the grievance and the Union
requested arbitration. Id. ¶ 71.
collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between
the Union and Rehab states that the arbitrator shall resolve
grievances which involve “questions of interpretation
or application of any provisions of th[e] [CBA].” Mot.
Vacate at 17, Doc. No. 1. The parties stipulated that the
issues to for the arbitrator to decide were: (1) whether
Rehab violated the CBA when it terminated Brooks, and (2) if
so, what the proper remedy should be. Id. at 28,
200. The CBA states that, “employees may not be
disciplined . . . or discharged except for just cause,
” id. at 17, but the CBA does not define just
cause. The arbitrator found that Rehab had just cause to
discipline Brooks, but that discharging her was too harsh of
a punishment. Id. at 212. The arbitrator ordered
that Brooks be reinstated and that her discharge be reduced
to suspension without pay. Id.
filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award [Doc. No. 1]
alleging that the arbitrator acted beyond the powers given to
him in the CBA. The Union filed a counterclaim [Doc. No. 3]
seeking enforcement of the award. Rehab moves for summary
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
249-50 (1986). All reasonable inferences must be drawn in a
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Holland
v. Sam's Club, 487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir. 2007).
The evidence is not weighed, and no credibility
determinations are made. See Jenkins v. Winter, 540
F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir. 2008).
arbitrator's award will be upheld unless he acts outside
the scope of authority given him by the CBA. See John
Morrell & Co. v. Local Union 304A of United Food
& Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, 913 F.2d
544, 559 (8th Cir. 1990) (citing United Paperworkers
Int'l Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 38
(1987)). Whether an arbitrator exceeded the scope of his
authority is a question of law. See John Morrell,
913 F.2d at 559. Here, the only issue is whether the
arbitrator exceeded his authority under the CBA by granting
an award that lessened Brooks's discipline. Mot. Summ. J.
at 1-2, Doc. No. 12.
though the parties do not dispute facts, Rehab's motion
is denied because Rehab has not presented any evidence to
support its conclusion that the arbitrator exceeded his
authority. See Crown Cork & Seal Co. v. Int'l
Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers,
AFL-CIO, 501 F.3d 912, 915 (8th Cir. 2007). Rehab claims
that its “Resident Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment
Policy” (“abuse policy”) and the CBA, read
together, give it the sole right to create and enforce
regulations governing its employees' conduct, including
terminating employees for verified abuse. Mot. Vacate at
9-10, 16; Pl.'s Br. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 13-14, Doc.
No. 13. The CBA, however, gives the arbitrator authority to
resolve “questions of interpretation or application of
any provisions of th[e] [CBA].” Mot. Vacate at 17.
Union argues that all the arbitrator did in this case was
interpret and apply the meaning of just cause from the
provision of the CBA that states: “employees may not be
disciplined . . . or discharged except for just cause.”
Def.'s Br. Supp. Resp. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 9, Doc.
No 21; Mot. Vacate at 17. The CBA here does not define just
cause. Mot. Vacate at 17. When a CBA requires just cause to
discipline or discharge an employee but fails to define the
term, the arbitrator has broad authority to define and apply
that term, and courts must defer to arbitrators. See
Associated Elec. Co-op, Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec.
Workers, Local No. 53, 751 F.3d 898, 903 (8th Cir. 2014)
(citing Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. at 41). Furthermore,
doubts as to an arbitrator's authority stemming from a
CBA are resolved in favor of his authority. See
Lackawanna Leather Co. v. United Food & Commercial
Workers Int'l Union, AFL-CIO & CLC, 706 F.2d
228, 230-31 (8th Cir. 1983).
judgment is therefore inappropriate because Rehab provides no
evidence to support its argument that the arbitrator exceeded
his authority. See Alcan Packaging Co. v. Graphic
Commc'n Conference, Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters &
Local Union No. 77-P, 729 F.3d 839, 841 (8th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. at 38).
foregoing reasons, Rehab's motion for summary judgment