Court Favors Union in Arbitration Confirmation Dispute Against Hospital

On Thursday, an arbitration decision was confirmed in the District of New Jersey. The confirmation was issued in the case between JNESO, District Council 1, IUOE and Prime Healthcare, St. Mary’s Hospital. The dispute was regarding a laid off employee that was overlooked in favor of a new hire regarding a former position.

The union member, John Varghese, was laid off under a temporary layoff notice when the radiation department was installing a new imaging system. Mr. Vargas then elected to fill a vacant position while the installation was taking place. After the installation was completed, instead of offering the position back to Mr. Vargas and allowing Mr. Vargas to train on the new machine, the hospital elected to advertise the position for a new hire with a higher level of experience on the new machine. The Union filed a grievance and then initiated arbitration on the situation.

The arbitrator found in favor of the union and Varghese, holding that per Varghese’s license that he was permitted to operate new imaging systems with minimal training and the hospital and manufacturers both provided related training on the new system. These facts, coupled with the language from the bargaining agreement that an employee subject to layoff could elect to fill any vacant position, provided that they posses the necessary qualifications, as well as the requirement that a union member would receive first preference for all bargaining unit positions.

The hospital disputed the arbitrators holdings, arguing that the by accepting the vacant position, Varghese was no longer in a layoff status as well as arguing that it was against public policy to not permit the hospital to insist on a higher level of experience for the position than the original position required. The court held that unless plainly against the facts, fact finding is the province of the arbitrator. The court also held that in light of the facts found by the arbitrator, that the court could not say that the higher level of experience that the hospital required was necessary.

The union was represented by the firm of Kroll Heineman Ptasiewicz & Parsons. Prime Healthcare was represented by Littler Mendelson.