Magazine article Dispute Resolution Journal

Labor: Remand for Clarification of Ambiguous Award

Magazine article Dispute Resolution Journal

Labor: Remand for Clarification of Ambiguous Award

Article excerpt

The functus officio doctrine did not bar the district court from remanding an award to the arbitrator for clarification when the award was rendered ambiguous by developments occurring after it was issued, the 3rd Circuit recently held.

The case arose out of an arbitration award regarding the grievant's termination from employment. A sexual harassment complaint was lodged by a co-worker against the grievant, a 27-year employee. After the investigation, the employer suspended the grievant for 60 days, and conditioned his return to work on his agreement to undergo counseling at a program approved by the employer. The employer notified the grievant by letter that it had made arrangements for him to undergo counseling with Dr. Michael Crabtree, and that he "must agree to continue through the course of counseling as prescribed by Dr. Crabtree."

When the grievant stopped counseling after eight sessions, the employer terminated his employment for violating the condition of his reinstatement. The termination was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator found the employer did not have the right to terminate the grievant's employment but it correctly determined that the grievant could not return to work because he was no longer receiving the mandated counseling. The award ordered his reinstatement "but only after he completes the course of counseling as prescribed by Dr. Crabtree." Subsequent developments, however, impinged on the quoted portion of the award. When the grievant contacted Dr. Crabtree, the doctor declined to continue the counseling because "at our last session ... you threatened both a lawsuit against me and also to turn me into the licensing board."

The grievant began to see another licensed counselor, but the employer refused to agree that this counseling satisfied his obligation to continue counseling with Dr. Crabtree. …

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