United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before this Court on Plaintiffs motion to
confirm arbitration award. [ECF No.6].
is Independent Laboratory Employee Union, Inc., an
organization that represents the interest of Exxon employees
who are based at Defendant ExxonMobil Research and
Engineering Company's Clinton facility. In brief, this
action seeks the entry of a judgment confirming an
arbitration award issued in favor of Plaintiff and against
Defendant. (Compl. ECF No. 1-2 ¶l). The arbitration
award was entered by Roger E. Maher and delivered to the
parties on September 26, 2017. (Id., ¶2).
facts that led to the original arbitrated dispute are as
follows. The dispute arose from Defendant's decision to
abolish the previously offered "United Way Day Off
Program" from represented employees. (Id.,
¶7). As part of this program, each year, Exxon would set
a financial goal for employee charitable donations to the
United Way Fund (sometimes combined with a participation
goal) and promised employees in advance that if the goal was
met, they would obtain an extra paid day off to use as they
saw fit. Prior to terminating the program in 2016, Defendant
had offered the United Way Day Off for nine years. Given the
business industry conditions changed, ExxonMobil's main
corporate campus in the Houston area ended the program in
2015. (Tr. 173, 178-79). Other locations followed. The Exxon
corporate executives requested that ExxonMobil Research end
the program, which it did in September 2016 after internal
review. (Tr. 173, 178-79). When the Union heard rumors that
Exxon had ended the United Way Day off, and that Defendant
was also going to end it, they raised the issue in a
regularly scheduled quarterly meeting on September 14, 2016.
There, Defendant explained that site management was
evaluating whether or not to continue the United Way Day Off
and it would notify the Union when it made a decision. (Tr.
13, 16, 32-33, 76-81-108). On the same date, the Company
reminded the Union that during the 2013 CBA negotiation,
Defendant had referred to the Union Way Day Off as an example
of management discretion in allowing a day off with pay
outside of the bounds of the CBA, yet they did not request to
bargain on the matter at the time. (Tr. 111, 137).
September 30, 2016, Defendant provided written notice to the
Union that it was eliminating the program. Five weeks later,
Plaintiff filed a grievance. The parties proceeded to binding
arbitration before a neutral arbitrator of the American
Arbitration Association (AAA) to determine whether Defendant
violated the CBA between them and the Union by discontinuing
the United Way Day off without first bargaining with
Plaintiff. (Compl., ¶IO). A hearing was held before the
Arbitrator on June 27, 2017. (Id., ¶l 1). After
the hearing, the Arbitrator determined that Defendant
violated the CBA by unilaterally discontinuing the United Way
Day Off. The Plaintiffs grievance was upheld and granted.
(Id., ¶¶12-13). In his decision, the
Arbitrator recognized that the United Way Day Off was a long
standing practice considered by both parties to fall within
the excused with pay definition provided by Article X. (Arb.
Dec. pg. 10-11). He addressed the requirement to bargain and
also did not find the United Way Day Off to be either a
modification or an amendment that required to be in writing
pursuant to Article XXIII, Section 2(b).
remedy, the Arbitrator determined that the represented
employees should be granted a United Way Day Off for 2016;
and the parties shall be required to bargain over the terms
and conditions of the United Way Day off Program and their
implementation for the 2017 campaign prior to the start of
that campaign. (Id., ¶14). The Arbitrator
further ruled that in the event the 2017 campaign had already
started, the represented employers shall similarly be granted
a United Way Day Off for 2017 while bargaining takes place
and continues. (Id., ¶15).
failed to hear from Defendant as of October 4, 2017,
Plaintiff requested bargaining in accordance with the
Arbitration Award. Defendant responded, "we are still
evaluating the Award including whether to challenge in court.
I will keep you apprised of any developments."
(Id., ¶18, See Ex. B to Complaint). On October
6, 2017, Defendant sent an email to employees at the
Exxon's Clinton facility to officially kick off the 2017
United Way Campaign, which officially began on October 9.
(Id. ¶¶20-21, Ex. C).
October 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in state court,
along with an order to show cause. At the time Plaintiff
filed the complaint, Defendant had not provided employees
with a United Way Day Off for 2016 or 2017. The complaint
lists one Count, for confirmation of the Arbitration Award
pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:24-7. The matter was removed to this
Court on December 6, 2017. Defendant removed the matter based
on 28 U.S.C. §1331 federal question jurisdiction,
because Plaintiff requested confirmation of an arbitration
award reached in an arbitration proceeding held pursuant to
the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement.
See 29 U.S.C. 185(a), Labor Management Relations
Act. Plaintiff has not filed for remand. After the matter was
removed, and upon the parties' request for direction,
this Court issued a briefing schedule for a petition to
confirm an arbitration award. The petition is now before this
argues that no ground exists to vacate or modify the
arbitrator's award. Defendant rebuts arguing that the
award fails to draw its essence from the CBA and cannot in
any rational way be derived therefrom. Defendant also argues
that the CBA contains a zipper clause that states the
"agreement contains the entire agreement between the
parties, " and "any modifications or amendments
shall be in writing." Further, Defendant supports that
the CBA provides that no course of dealing shall affect the
terms of the agreement. Overall Defendant argues that the
Arbitrator disregarded the clear and unequivocal limitations
on him and on reading the terms of the CBA.
to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), there is a
strong presumption in favor of enforcing arbitration awards.
Brentwood Medical Associates v. United Mine Workers of
America, 396 F.3d 237, 241 (3d Cir.2005). The Act
underscores the overarching federal policy favoring
arbitration to resolve labor disputes. Major League
Baseball Players Association v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504,
121 S.Ct. 1724, 149 L.Ed.2d 740 (2001); see also Penntech
Papers, Inc. v. United Paperworkers Int'l
Union, 896 F.2d 51, 53 (3d Cir.1990) (finding that the
overwhelming presumption in favor of arbitration awards
"protects] the benefits of labor arbitration, namely,
speed, flexibility, informality, and finality.").
Accordingly, a district court may only vacate an
arbitrator's award in limited circumstances:
(1) where the award was procured by corruption, fraud or
undue means; (2) where there was evident partiality or
corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them; (3) where
the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to
postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in
refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the
controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights
of any party have been prejudiced; or (4) where the
arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed
them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the
subject matter submitted was not made.
9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(1)-(4); see also Hall Street
Associates, LLC v. Mattel, Inc. 128 S.Ct. 1396(2007).
"As long as the arbitrator's award 'draws its
essence from the collective bargaining agreement, ' and
is not merely 'his own brand of industrial justice, '
the award is legitimate." United Paperworkers
Int'l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36, 108
S.Ct. 364, 98 L.Ed.2d 286 (1987) (quoting Steelworkers v.
Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597, 80
S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960); Exxon Shipping Company
v. Exxon Seamen's Union, 801 F.Supp. 1379, 1384 (3d
may, however, vacate an arbitration award if the
arbitrator's decision is wholly unsupported by the
agreement's plain language or the arbitrator fails to
adhere to basic principles of contract construction. News
Am. Publications, Inc., Daily Racing Form Div. v. Newark
Typographical Union, Local 103, 921 F.2d 40, 41 (3d
Cir.1990); Exxon Shipping, 801 F.Supp. at 1384. This
Court may not "sit as the panel did and reexamine the
evidence." Mutual Fire, Marine, & Inland Ins. Co. v.
Norad Reins. Co., Ltd., 868 F.2d 52, 56 (3d Cir. 1989).
Thus, if an "arbitrator is even arguably construing or
applying the contract and acting within the scope of his
authority, ' the fact that 'a court is convinced he
committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his
decision.'" Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v.
United Mine Workers of America, District 17, 531 U.S.
57, 62, 121 S.Ct. 462, 148 L.Ed.2d 354 (2000) (quoting
Misco, 484 U.S. at 38). In other words, it is not
within the province of this Court to substitute its judgment
for that of an arbitrator's, however injudicious it may
be. Rather, Congress' intent in passing the FAA and
concurrent policy considerations guide this Court's
obligation to uphold an arbitrator's judgment if the
decision, on its face, was drawn from the parties'
agreement or is remotely based on reasonable contractual
interpretation. See United Trans. Union Local 1589 v.
Suburban Transit Corp., 51 F.3d 376, 379 (3dCir.l995).
courts have vacated arbitration awards in instances where the
arbitrator demonstrates a manifest disregard for the
applicable law. Although not explicitly enumerated as a
grounds for vacatur under the FAA, the Third Circuit has
recognized the "manifest disregard of the law doctrine
[as] a judicially-created one that is to be used 'only
[in] those exceedingly rare circumstances where some
egregious impropriety on the party of the arbitrators is
apparent, but where none of the provisions of the [FAA]
apply." Black Box Corp. v. Markham, 127
Fed.Appx. 22, 25 (3d Cir.2005). To prevail under this
doctrine, the moving party must demonstrate that the
arbitrator ignored law that was "well defined, explicit,
and clearly applicable to the case." Koken v.
Cologne Reinsurance (Barb.) Ltd., No. 98-0678, 2006 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 59540, at *6, 2006 WL 2460902 (M.D.Pa. Aug. 23,
2006); O'Leary v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc.,
No. 05-6016, 2008 WL 5136950, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec.5, 2008).
there appears not to have been any fraud, misconduct,
corruption, or abuse of power. Thus, the Court will review to
determine whether the Arbitrator's construction of the
CBA was so irrational and ...