On June 25, 2009, the Appellate Division decided IAFF, Local 1197 v. Township of Edison, Docket No.: A-0194-08T1. In the case, IAFF, Local 1197 appeals from an order entered by the trial court on August 4, 2008, denying its motion for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in this action to enforce an arbitration award against defendant Township of Edison (“Township”) and for interest on the arbitration award.

Plaintiff is the exclusive representative for firefighters and certain other emergency workers employed by the Township. A collective bargaining agreement between the parties had been in effect from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2004. The parties engaged in negotiations, but were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract. 

Consequently, on May 12, 2005, plaintiff initiated compulsory interest arbitration by filing a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (“PERC”). The proceedings ultimately resulted in a decision by the arbitrator on April 7, 2008, which granted the affected employees retroactive and future salary increases.

On April 25, 2008, plaintiff’s counsel wrote to the Township and inquired as to when the arbitration award would be implemented. The Township responded that the award would be implemented when the new agreement was executed. Plaintiff asserted that arbitrator’s award should be implemented immediately. On May 8, 2008, the Township sent plaintiff a draft of the new contract. Plaintiff responded on May 22, 2008 and informed the Township that the salary rates in the draft agreement had not been calculated correctly. Thereafter, Plaintiff provided the Township with its own salary schedule.

By letter dated May 29, 2008, the Township advised Plaintiff that it was reviewing the salary rates submitted by Plaintiff to determine if they were correct. The Township also informed Plaintiff that retroactive payments would be made as soon as it concluded its review of the salary rates. 

On May 30, 2008, Plaintiff filed a petition in the trial court to enforce the arbitration award. On June 9, 2008, the Township advised Plaintiff that it had completed its review of the salary rates submitted by Plaintiff and had determined that the rates were correct. The Township informed Plaintiff, however, that retroactive payments could not be processed until it received information concerning contributions by the employees to the Township’s deferred compensation plan. On July 1, 2008, the Township provided Plaintiff with its calculations of the retroactive payments due to the affected employees.

The trial court heard oral argument on July 3, 2008. The Township did not oppose Plaintiff’s application to enforce the arbitration award, but argued that the court should not award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees, costs, or interest on the award because it had been actively implementing the award.


The court stated on the record that it would enforce the award, but reserved decision on Plaintiff’s application for attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest on the award. On July 9, 2008, the salary increases were implemented and retroactive payments were included in paychecks issued on July 23, 2008. On August 4, 2008, the trial court entered its order denying Plaintiff’s application for attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Specifically, the court found: (1) the implementation of the award was complex and time consuming undertaking; (2) the Township acted in good faith and made a timely effort to implement the award in the face of challenging circumstances; and (3) there was no evidence that the Township sought to challenge or avoid compliance with award. This appeal ensued. 

The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s determinations. The Court found that, under the Uniform Arbitration Act, the award of attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest are committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Although the Township did not implement the award immediately, the record shows the Township acted with reasonable promptness. Specifically, the Township took steps to ensure the Plaintiff agreed with its calculation of the new salary schedule and the retroactive payments required by the award. Moreover, the Court noted that some of the delay in implementing the award was attributed to Plaintiff. As such, the Court determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest on the arbitration award.

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *