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COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA v. AT&T

October 13, 1995

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, CLC, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN TELEPHONE & TELEGRAPH COMPANY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERTSON

 Plaintiff, Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC ("CWA"), and defendant, American Telephone & Telegraph Company ("AT&T"), are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. CWA instituted this lawsuit pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, alleging that AT&T breached the agreement by failing to provide back pay and service benefits to a reinstated employee after an arbitrator determined that AT&T had dismissed him without just cause. Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.

 1. Background

 AT&T dismissed Devoid Williams on October 11, 1993, for unsatisfactory attendance. CWA challenged the dismissal on the basis that AT&T acted without just cause. After an informal resolution of the grievance was not forthcoming, CWA demanded arbitration of the dispute pursuant to Article 7, paragraph 2, of the collective bargaining agreement. That paragraph reads in relevant part:

 
The Arbitrator's authority shall be confined to a determination of whether or not the COMPANY had just cause to DISMISS, suspend or place the grievant on INTERIM STATUS. If the Arbitrator should determine that the COMPANY lacked just cause, the employee shall be entitled to back pay at the employee's ADJUSTED RATE less interim earnings and any unemployment compensation received, and service credit for the period of absence caused by the action of the COMPANY.

 Plaintiff's Complaint P 6.

 Arbitrator James P. Whyte heard the case on February 10, 1994. Both parties presented evidence. The parties agree that the proceeding was conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Arbitrator Whyte was given a pre-printed form on which he was to render his decision. The form read in relevant part:

 At the bottom of the form were two choices for the arbitrator, "The COMPANY had just cause," and, "The COMPANY did not have just cause." A box could be checked next to each option. Beneath these words were two lines on which the arbitrator could write comments.

 On February 15, 1993, Arbitrator Whyte rendered his decision. The Arbitrator checked the box indicating that AT&T did not have just cause to dismiss Williams. He also wrote, on the comments line:

 
Grievant accorded disparate treatment: denied make-up opportunity to work during vacation day or during shutdown. Reinstated at Level IV. Back pay and other benefits, if any, denied.

 The parties agree that they do not know whether Arbitrator Whyte (a) was unaware that the collective bargaining agreement did not give him the authority to decide the pay and benefits question, or (b) was aware of, but ignored, the express language of the agreement. In any case, AT&T takes the position that it must comply with the Arbitrator's ruling and refuses to give Williams back pay and service benefits.

 CWA argues that the Arbitrator's denial of pack pay and benefits exceeded his authority. CWA seeks enforcement of the portion of the Arbitrator's award that addressed the issue committed to him by the collective bargaining agreement and asks that the portion that exceeded his authority, the denial of back pay and benefits, be vacated. CWA also seeks an order compelling AT&T to provide back pay and benefits to Williams.

 AT&T concedes that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority when he ventured into the remedy phase of Williams' grievance. It concedes, further that, under the agreement, an employee found by an arbitrator to have been dismissed without ...


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