Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, J.A.D.
Defendant trucking company appeals from a final judgment of the Chancery Division confirming an arbitrator's award, which directed the reinstatement of Frank Grasso as an employee of defendant, with no loss of seniority benefits or rights and with back pay for the period of his wrongful discharge.
Plaintiff local union is the collective bargaining representative of the truck drivers employed by defendant at its trucking terminals located in Jersey City, New Jersey, and in Maspeth, Long Island, New York. The company is engaged in the transportation of freight in interstate commerce. The collective bargaining agreement between plaintiff union and defendant provides that an employee shall not be discharged except for "just cause." It makes discharges subject
to final and binding arbitration before the New Jersey State Board of Mediation.
On August 12, 1966 defendant discharged Frank Grasso, an employee of many years seniority who was the shop steward of the Jersey City drivers. The union filed for arbitration of the discharge with the New Jersey State Board of Mediation. An arbitrator was designated by the board to hear the case and a hearing was scheduled by the board for October 13, 1966 at 10 A.M. at its offices. However, defendant twice postponed the hearing on the ground that it was not ready to proceed, and the hearing was finally rescheduled for October 19, 1966.
Both sides appeared on the last-mentioned date with their respective witnesses and with their attorneys. The hearing was convened by the designated arbitrator, and the parties executed the usual formal submission agreement of the board, setting forth the issues in dispute as follows:
"Did the Employer have just cause to discharge Frank Grasso under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement? If not, what remedy is appropriate?"
In the submission agreement, the parties further agreed to
"faithfully abide by and perform any award made pursuant to this agreement and that such award shall be binding and conclusive upon us."
The usual procedure in labor arbitration hearings involving the discharge of an employee is for the employer to proceed first with the presentation of its case, thereby giving its reasons for and the factual basis upon which it asserts the "just cause" for the discharge. Defendant agreed to follow this procedure.
However, contrary to the usual procedure in such hearings, defendant employer called Grasso, the discharged employee, as its first witness. Both Grasso and the union objected to Grasso's being ...