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Catalyst Employees' Association v. Air Products and Chemicals

August 9, 2000

CATALYST EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AIR PRODUCTS AND CHEMICALS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, District Judge

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before the Court is defendant Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.'s motion for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, and plaintiff Catalyst Employees' Association's cross-motion for summary judgment. Also before the Court is plaintiff Catalyst Employees' Association's motion for prejudgment interest, attorneys' fees, and sanctions. Jurisdiction is based upon section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is denied and plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I.

This action arises out of an employment dispute. Plaintiff Catalyst Employees' Association ("plaintiff" or "Union") is an unincorporated labor association which represents employees of defendant Air Products And Chemicals, Inc. ("defendant" or "Air Products"). The Union is the exclusive representative of a unit of employees employed by Air Products at its Paulsboro, New Jersey facility, where the current dispute arose. The Union and Air Products are parties to a collective bargaining agreement which compels arbitration of grievances.

Tyrone Hamilton is a member of the Union and an employee of Air Products at the Paulsboro, New Jersey facility. In March of 1999, Mr. Hamilton filed a grievance with Air Products charging that Air Products failure to promote him to the position of "Top Operator" was motivated by discriminatory animus. Unable to resolve the matter, the Union made a timely request that the grievance proceed to arbitration. On December 3, 1999, the grievance was arbitrated before Louis Aronin, Esq.

On March 31, 2000, Arbitrator Aronin issued his Opinion in the matter. (Pl.'s Ex. E, AAA Case No. 14-300-00905-99). He concluded that: "The failure to promote Grievant, Tyrone Hamilton, to the position of Top Operator, was based on discrimination, because of his race or because he was successful in prosecuting a grievance, was capricious and unreasonable all in violation of the parties' Agreement." (Id. at 25.) He ordered that Hamilton be immediately classified as a "Top Operator" and given all the rights and benefits of a Top Operator retroactive to the first pay period in January of 1996. (Id.)

On May 4, 2000, plaintiff Union filed the Complaint in this matter seeking to enforce the arbitration award. On July 31, 2000, Air Products filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Air Products argues that the issue presented to the arbitrator concerned events subsequent to March of 1999, and that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in awarding Hamilton rights and benefits (including back pay) retroactive to January of 1996. Air Products asks this Court to set aside the award insofar as it granted relief for the period prior to March of 1999.

II.

As both parties have introduced documents which are not attached to or implicitly relied upon by the Complaint, the Court will treat defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative for summary judgment, as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) ("If, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment. . . .").

"[S]ummary judgment is proper `if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

III.

The role of a court in reviewing the decision of an arbitrator is extremely limited. The court will vacate an arbitrator's award only if there is "absolutely no support at all in the record justifying the arbitrator's decision." United Transp. Union Local 1589 v. Suburban Transit Corp., 51 F.3d 376, 379 (3d Cir. 1995)(quoting News Am. Publications, Inc. v. Newark Typographical Union, Local 103, 918 F.2d 21, 24 (3d Cir. 1990). "[A]s long as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority, that a court is ...


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