Arbitrator’s Power to Alter Discipline Affirmed by Michigan Court, with a Caveat on CBA Clarity

Can a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) limit the authority of a labor arbitrator to determine the appropriateness of a disciplinary punishment? It can, but only when the CBA clearly says so, reiterated the Michigan Court of Appeals in a recent decision, Mich Dep’t of State Police v Mich St Police Troopers Ass’n.

Several male coworkers accused a female Michigan State Police (MSP) trooper of sexual assault after surveillance videos captured the inebriated officer grabbing the genitals of male coworkers at an off-duty event. Following investigation (and misdemeanor criminal conviction), MSP terminated the trooper. After exhausting the internal grievance process, the parties went to arbitration. Although agreeing that the trooper violated the Code of Conduct, the arbitrator concluded that termination was too harsh of a penalty, and thus ordered reinstatement and that the trooper’s discipline be reduced to an unpaid suspension. The arbitrator also gave the trooper back pay for a certain period of time.

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