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Southside Hospital v. New York State Nurses Association

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 3, 2017

SOUTHSIDE HOSPITAL, Petitioner,
v.
NEW YORK STATE NURSE'S ASSOCIATION, Respondent.

          For Petitioner: Peter D. Stergios, Esq. McCarter & English LLP

          For Respondent: Joshua John Ellison, Esq. Richard M. Seltzer, Esq. Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.

         Presently pending before the Court is: (1) Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown's Report and Recommendation dated January 26, 2017, (the “R&R, ” Docket Entry 21) with respect to petitioner Southside Hospital's (“Petitioner” or “Southside”) motion for summary judgment, (Pet'r's Mot., Docket Entry 15) and respondent New York State Nurse's Association's (“Respondent” or “NYSNA”) cross motion for summary judgment, (Resp't's Mot., Docket Entry 14) and (2) Petitioner's objections to the R&R (the “Objections, ” Docket Entry 23). For the following reasons, Petitioner's objections are OVERRULED and the R&R is ADOPTED in its entirety.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court assumes familiarity with the facts of this matter, which are set forth in detail in Judge Brown's R&R. Briefly, NYSNA is a labor organization that represents a bargaining unit of registered nurses at Southside. (Resp't's 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 14-3, ¶ 1.) Southside and NYSNA are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”), which provides, in relevant part, that “nurses should not be required to perform non-nursing functions on a regular basis as part of their assigned duties.” (CBA, Pet'r's Mot. Ex. B, Docket Entry 16-2, at 10, ¶ 3.10.) The CBA notes that non-nursing functions include, but are not limited to, “transporting patients for routine tests, ” “laboratory specimen pickups, ” and “pharmacy stat med orders/delivery to the unit.” (CBA at 10, ¶ 3.10.)

         Article 14 of the CBA sets forth a grievance procedure. (CBA at 39-40.) To the extent a grievance is not adjusted after presentation to the employee's supervisor, the Director of Nursing, and the Personnel Director, any grievance that involves the “application or interpretation” of the CBA “may be submitted to arbitration by [Southside] or [NYSNA].” (CBA at 39-40.)

         The CBA also provides that NYSNA shall establish a Committee on Nursing Practice (the “Committee”) to “make recommendations with respect to the philosophy of nursing practice specific to the Hospital and methods to foster adherence to that philosophy.” (CBA at 4, ¶ 3.01(A).) The Committee analyzes factors that include “nursing involvement in non-nursing responsibilities” and “the adequacy of resources and support services essential to the practice of nursing.” (CBA at 4, ¶ 3.01(B)(2).) Additionally, recommendations of the Committee “shall be referred in writing to the Director of Nursing and Hospital Administration.” (CBA at 4, ¶ 3.01(B)(3).) The Administration's decision is final and not subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure set forth in Article 14 of the CBA. (CBA at 4, ¶ 3.01(B)(3).)

         On February 18, 2014, NYSNA submitted a grievance alleging that Southside violated the CBA because registered nurses in the “Labor and Delivery Unit (“L&D”) were routinely leaving the unit to make pharmacy runs, lab runs, transporting patients, and cleaning equipment.” (Pet'r's 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).) After Southside denied the grievance, the parties participated in arbitration hearings. (Pet'r's 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 5-6.) On December 17, 2014, the arbitrator issued an award finding that Southside violated the CBA (the “Arbitration Award”). (Resp't's 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) Thereafter, Southside commenced this action seeking an Order vacating the Arbitration Award. (Pet., Docket Entry 1-3, at 1; ¶ 5.)

         On July 8, 2016, NYSNA moved for summary judgment. (See Resp't's Mot.) On August 8, 2016, Southside cross-moved for summary judgment. (See Pet'r's Mot.) Southside argued, inter alia, that the parties' dispute was excluded by the CBA as the Committee was “designed to address the very issues raised in this arbitration.” (Pet'r's Br., Docket Entry 17, at 5.) Similarly, Southside argued that the arbitrator exceeded his power and “went far outside the scope of the CBA, including his own power to interpret the labor agreement, creating a remedy that required [Southside] to provide nonbargaining unit staff when it had never agreed to do so and never agreed to allow an arbitrator to order it to do so.” (Pet'r's Br. at 7-8.)

         On October 13, 2016, the Court referred the pending motions for summary judgment to Judge Brown for a report and recommendation. (Referral Order, Docket Entry 20.)

         A. The R&R

         On January 26, 2017, Judge Brown issued his R&R recommending that NYSNA's motion be granted, and Southside's cross motion be denied. (R&R at 14-15.) Judge Brown found that the Arbitration Award qualified for confirmation and rejected Southside's proposed grounds for vacatur. (See generally R&R at 9-14.) Particularly, Judge Brown rejected Southside's contention that the CBA excluded the underlying dispute from arbitration. (R&R at 11.) Judge Brown found that the CBA's incorporation of the rules of an arbitration association evidenced that the issue of arbitrability was referred to the arbitrator, and noted that Southside's arguments regarding arbitrability were “considered and rejected by the arbitrator.” (R&R at 11-12.) Judge Brown further determined that Southside's reliance on “limited exclusionary language” in the CBA with respect to the finality of the recommendations of the Committee did not demonstrate that the parties' dispute was excluded from arbitration, as that language “relate[d] to a process separate and apart from the grievance/arbitration process enacted in the CBA: that of making recommendations concerning nursing philosophies and practices.” (R&R at 12-13.)

         Judge Brown also rejected Southside's argument that the arbitrator exceeded his powers, stating that such an argument fails along with Southside's argument regarding arbitrability since “[t]his argument depends entirely on the contention that the CBA excludes the instant dispute from the ambit of arbitration which . . . is inaccurate.” (R&R at 13.) Finally, Judge Brown declined to credit Southside's argument that the ...


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