The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY S. HARRIS
This matter, which concerns an arbitrator's award under a collective bargaining agreement, is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. The Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter under § 301 of the Taft-Hartley Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185.
The parties each moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the arbitrator's award does not draw its essence from the contract; defendant contends that it does. Defendant also requests that in addition to the relief requested in its answer, the Court award back pay from the date of the arbitrator's award.
For the reasons stated below, the Court denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants defendant's motion for summary judgment with the exception of defendant's request for back pay beyond that which was awarded by the arbitrator and is allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. The Court also denies defendant's requests for costs, expenses, and attorney's fees.
Plaintiff Washington Hospital Center (the Hospital) and defendant Service Employees International Union, Local 722, AFL-CIO (the Union) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (the Agreement) effective October 7, 1990, through October 9, 1993.
The Agreement contains two provisions for discipline and discharge. Section 3.1 allows for discipline up to and including discharge for "just cause." Disciplinary action taken pursuant to § 3.1 is "subject to grievance and arbitration for the purpose of determining whether or not an employee actually committed the act cited or whether the punishment applied was appropriate in light of the facts of the case." Section 3.2 provides for a system of progressive discipline for offenses that are not enumerated in § 3.1 and which do not constitute gross misconduct. For offenses falling under § 3.2, the steps of disciplinary action are as follows: (1) first offense -- written warning; (2) second offense -- written warning and conference; (3) third offense -- suspension; and (4) fourth offense -- discharge.
The Agreement also contains a grievance procedure culminating in arbitration. (Agreement, article IX.) This procedure is the exclusive mechanism for resolving disputes under the Agreement, including disputes regarding disciplinary action under §§ 3.1 and 3.2. The arbitrator's authority to hear and decide grievances is set out in § 10.2 of the Agreement. That section states:
The arbitrator shall have the authority to apply the provisions of the Agreement and to render a decision on any grievance properly coming before him, but he shall not have the authority to amend or modify this Agreement. Further, he shall have the authority to apply and interpret the provisions of this Agreement only insofar as may be necessary to the determination of such grievance. Awards may or may not be retroactive, depending upon the determination of the equities of each case. In the event any arbitral award is issued providing for back wages or other retroactive relief, the employees involved shall never be entitled to an amount exceeding one hundred (100) days of pay or other retroactive relief.
The parties are in agreement as to the following facts. On June 28, 1991, Caesar Guest, an orderly employed at the Hospital, was terminated for violating three hospital rules: (1) unauthorized absence from his assigned work area; (2) being in an unauthorized area (Unit 4-D); and (3) intimidating a fellow employee. The Union grieved Guest's termination. The grievance was denied. The Union then filed a notice to arbitrate. Prior thereto, Guest had been disciplined on January 22, 1990, March 20, 1991, and May 7, 1991, at steps I, II, and III of progressive discipline. At step III the hospital disciplined Guest for allegedly intimidating a fellow employee, use of obscene language, being in an area without authorization, and unauthorized absence from an assigned work area. Pursuant to the Agreement, Guest was suspended. The Union grieved the step III suspension, which grievance was denied. The Union then filed a notice to arbitrate and the parties selected William P. Hobgood to hear the step III grievance. The hearing was scheduled for September 26, 1991. Subsequently, the parties decided to submit only the step IV grievance to Arbitrator Hobgood.
The arbitrator sustained the grievance and reinstated Guest with 100 days back pay and no break in seniority. The arbitrator found that the contract provided two mechanisms for discharging an employee: sections 3.1 and 3.2 as described above. The arbitrator further found that in order to sustain a discharge under § 3.2 progressive discipline, the Hospital must show that all four steps of the process had been met. (Arbitrator's Op. FMCS #91-27157 at 5.) The arbitrator held that the step III suspension was not sufficiently supported, and therefore "having failed to support its third step suspension action, the Employer's discharge based on progressive discipline cannot be sustained." Id. at 5. The arbitrator then held that a § 3.1 discharge could not be sustained either because "there ...