As reported by the New Jersey Law Journal, the Appellate Division recently issued an opinion in the case Policemen’s Benevolent Association v. Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders, which addressed a challenge to a labor arbitration decision revolving around “bonus vacation days.” In the case, the Union appealed from an Order which dismissed its complaint and confirmed a labor arbitration decision. The Union claimed that the arbitrator’s award should have been vacated because it was contrary to public policy. The Union further argued that the trial court’s decision ratified the arbitrator’s failure to render a decision on an issue of substantive law and that the trial court’s decision approved the rewriting to the collective negotiations agreement at issue.

The Appellate Division found that the County’s policy regarding bonus vacation days did not violate public policy and the decision was not the product of undue means. The Court reasoned that nothing that the Union suggested fell within the narrow scope of a clear public policy exception that would have allowed for an arbitration award to be vacated. Finally, the Court found that the arbitrator used a reasonable and pragmatic means of addressing the past practice of awarding bonus vacation days and did not, in effect, rewrite the contract.  As such, the Court affirmed the trial court and, thus, confirmed the arbitration award.

This case illustrates the standard of review utilized by Courts in reviewing labor arbitration decisions.  Typically, an arbitration award will be confirmed so long as it is “reasonably debatable” and is not contrary to public policy.  Moreover, the decision cannot be premised upon mistakes of fact or law.  Therefore, the standard of review is somewhat high as Courts will normally give deference to an arbitrator’s decision.

Nevertheless, each and every arbitration decision is based upon a different set of facts and circumstances.  As a result, should you seek to overturn a labor arbitration decision imposed against you, you should seek the counsel of an experienced labor attorney to determine whether such a challenge is viable. In all instances, however, you must be mindful as to the standard of review employed by Courts in reviewing labor arbitration decisions.