On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County.
Michels and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
Plaintiff Local 462, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America (Union), appeals from a judgment of the Law Division that vacated two prior arbitration awards reinstating six employees of defendant Charles Schaefer & Sons, Inc. (Company), who had been terminated for violations of the parties' collective bargaining agreement.
Defendant Company and plaintiff Union were parties to a collective bargaining agreement commencing on October 13, 1982 and ending on October 12, 1985. Article XIV, Section C, Paragraph 3 of the agreement provided that unresolved grievances be submitted to arbitration in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the New Jersey State Board of Mediation. This section also provided that "[t]he decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding upon both Company and Union, but the arbitrator has no power to vary or alter the terms of the contract or to change the context thereof."
Article XIII of the Agreement, entitled "Probationary Period and Discharge," sets forth in Section B the types of employee conduct which "shall be cause for discharge." That section provides as follows:
B. The following shall be cause for discharge:
1. Drinking of alcoholic beverages on the premises or reporting for work intoxicated or otherwise impaired by alcohol;
2. Excessive absenteeism;
3. Two (2) garnishments or wage executions;
4. Arrest or incarceration on any charge by the police or other governmental authority;
6. Any other violation of rules or regulations now or hereafter promulgated by the Company.
On July 24, 1984 and January 23, 1985, the Company posted notices to the employees reiterating the contractual prohibition of the use of alcohol on Company premises and reminding them that any persons "found to be in possession of or drinking alcoholic beverages while on the job or on company property
will be subject to immediate discharge." A similar type of notice was posted by the Company on December 4, 1984, with respect to its policy against punching the time card of another employee.
In or around January 1985, the Company suspected that several employees were engaged in theft at its Union, New Jersey plant. Consequently, the Company contracted with Wackenhut Security, Inc. (Wackenhut), an independent security firm, to provide an undercover agent to work as a regular employee in order to investigate this problem. Richard Stancil (Stancil), a Wackenhut agent, worked in the plant from January 28, 1985 through March 25, 1985. During the course of this investigation, Stancil determined that seven Union employees were violating a number of Company rules, particularly the rule prohibiting the use of alcohol on Company premises. Accordingly, as a result of Stancil's weekly reports and meetings with Company management, these seven employees were terminated by the ...