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MATTER ARBITRATION BETWEEN ASSOCIATED TEACHERS HUNTINGTON (07/25/69)
SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, SPECIAL TERM, SUFFOLK COUNTY
1969.NY.42698 <http://www.versuslaw.com>; 303 N.Y.S.2d 469; 60 Misc. 2d 443
July 25, 1969
IN THE MATTER OF THE ARBITRATION BETWEEN ASSOCIATED TEACHERS OF HUNTINGTON, CLAIMANT, AND BOARD OF EDUCATION, UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 3, RESPONDENT
Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler for claimant.
Joseph W. Campanella for respondent.
William R. Geiler, J.
Application by respondent Board of Education to stay arbitration proceedings commenced by claimant Associated Teachers of Huntington.
The respondent and claimant entered into a contract on June 10, 1968 with reference to the employment of teachers in the Union Free School District No. 3 within the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County.
The contract includes a procedure for the submission of grievances to arbitration and defines a grievance in article II A(1) in the following terms: "A grievance is a claim which involves the interpretation and application of the terms and provisions of this contract."
The contract also includes a provision for giving notice of termination of employment to nontenure teachers. This provision is contained in article XVIII, section A, paragraph 3 of the agreement and provides: "Non-tenure teachers will be notified of termination of employment not later than March 1st, except that for the third year, the teacher will be notified not later than January 1."
The respondent, on May 1, 1969, sent a notice of termination of employment to a Samuel Grenz, a nontenure teacher in his initial year of employment and a member of the claimant teacher's association. This notice was admittedly sent two months after the contractual requirement that all such notices be sent no later than March 1, 1969.
The claimant filed a demand for arbitration in accordance with article II of the subject contract on the ground that there has been a violation of article XVIII, section A, paragraph 3 of the contract dealing with notice of termination of employment.
The respondent contends that this particular provision, governing the timing of termination notices to nontenure teachers, is outside the scope of the grievance procedure and thus not subject to arbitration. The respondent board, in support of this contention, cites article XVIII, section C of the contract, which provides: "No tenure teacher shall be disciplined, reprimanded, reduced in rank or compensation, suspended, demoted, transferred, terminated or otherwise deprived of any professional advantage without just cause. In no case shall this be done publicly unless so requested by the teacher. Any such action, including adverse evaluation of teacher performance or a violation of professional ethics asserted by the Board or any agent thereof, shall be subject to the grievance procedure set forth in this Agreement, provided that in the case of a non-tenure teacher, termination shall not be grievable."
The respondent board also implies that article XVIII, section A, paragraph 3 is contrary to certain statutory provisions of the State of New York and therefore is void.
Does the subject contract preclude arbitration with reference to the procedure used interminating the employment of a nontenure teacher?
The respondent, in arguing that the language of the contract precludes arbitration, relies primarily on section C of article XVIII, which deals not with the procedure to be followed in terminating employment of nontenure teachers, but with the right of the school board to terminate a tenure teacher's employment for just cause. This particular provision, as indicated above, also provides that the board may terminate the employment of a nontenure teacher without having to demonstrate just cause in an arbitration proceeding. There is no question that a nontenure teacher, under paragraph C of article XVIII, is prohibited from challenging in arbitration the grounds for termination of employment and the claimant readily admits this fact. However, this prohibition, in of itself, does not mean that a nontenure teacher is barred from challenging the "procedure" used in terminating employment. Otherwise, section A of article XVIII would be meaningless and there is no language in the contract which declares or implies that this section dealing with notice of termination of employment of a nontenure teacher was meant to be moot and unenforceable. The court has been unable to find any language in the broad arbitration provisions set forth in article II of the subject contract which would imply that the procedure used in the termination of a nontenure teacher was prohibited from being the subject of an arbitration proceeding.
It has been the established law in this State that questions concerning arbitrability are to be resolved in arbitration and not in a court, unless there is a clear and unquestionable exclusion from arbitration. This basic rule of law was clearly enunciated by the New York State Court of Appeals in the case of Matter of Long Is. Lbr. Co. (Martin) (15 N.Y.2d 380) in the following language at pages 384-385: "It is now a familiar rule that, where a labor agreement contains an arbitration provision, the presumption is that questions of arbitrability are for the arbitrator * * * In the last analysis, arbitrations are the result of agreements between the parties and they draw their essence from those agreements. It is only where the parties have employed language which clearly rebuts the presumption of arbitrability * * * that the matter may be determined by the courts. In the absence of such unmistakably clear language * * * the matter is sent to the arbitrator for his determination on the merits."
The court finds that there is no prohibition against submitting the question of the procedure used in terminating employment of a nontenure teacher and the best that can be said for respondent's position herein is that there is doubt as to whether the provisions in question may or may not be arbitrable. In such circumstances, the question of arbitrability must be submitted to an arbitrator for resolution as indicated by the United States Supreme Court in Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Co. (363 U.S. 574, 582-583): "An order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute. Doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage."
Are school boards prohibited by law from agreeing to provide a notice of termination to nontenure teachers? Is ...