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International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers v. JDD Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 15, 2019

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, DISTRICT LODGE 4, LOCAL LODGE S25, Plaintiff
v.
JDD, INC., Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

          JOHN C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendant JDD, Inc. (Defendant) seeks to recover the attorneys' fees it incurred in defending against the motion to vacate an arbitration award filed by Plaintiff International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 4, Local Lodge S25 (Plaintiff). (Motion, ECF No. 26.)

         Following a review of the record, and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court deny Defendant's motion.

         Background

         Plaintiff and Defendant are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Under the CBA, the parties agreed to arbitrate a dispute regarding the termination of the employment of William Mattis, an employee of Defendant. On March 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a grievance contesting the termination. The parties presented the matter to an arbitrator, who, on December 29, 2017, found that Mr. Mattis' employment had been terminated in accordance with the CBA after his leave of absence had expired following a workplace injury. (ECF No. 19-24.)

         Plaintiff subsequently asked this Court to vacate the award. (Complaint, ECF No.1.) Plaintiff argued that the arbitrator made unsupported factual findings, mischaracterized the nature of the dispute, misapplied the law, and improperly interpreted or rewrote the terms of the CBA. (ECF Nos. 20 & 22.) Plaintiff focused, in part, on the terms of the CBA's leave of absence provision, which states:

An Employee desiring leave of absence from his employment shall secure written permission from the Employer. The maximum leave of absence shall be for (90) days. An extension of up to six (6) months may be granted when required by mutual agreement between the employee and Employer. Permission for leave must be secured from the Employer with a copy mailed to the Union. Granting of leave of absence shall be for the following reasons, sickness, death in the immediate family and in the case of compensation injuries of occupational disease. …

         (ECF No. 19-1, CBA Article 11, Section 7 (emphasis added).)

         The arbitrator concluded that Article 11 governed Mr. Mattis's leave. A leave of absence under the terms of Article 11 is available for “sickness, death in the immediate family and in the case of compensation injuries of occupational disease.” The arbitrator reasoned that the concluding phrase, “in the case of compensation injuries of occupational disease” undoubtedly contained a typographical error and should be read as “in the case of compensation injuries or occupational disease, ” and thus applied to Mr. Mattis's leave.

         The arbitrator, therefore, determined that Defendant terminated Mr. Mattis's employment and insurance coverage in accordance with the CBA. (ECF No. 19-24, at 10 - 14.)

         After review of the record, I recommended the Court deny Plaintiff's request to vacate the arbitration award. (Recommended Decision, ECF No. 23.) I concluded: “[T]he arbitrator's interpretation of the contract was within his authority and represents a reasonable interpretation of the contract.” (Id., PageID # 278.) I further reasoned:

To give meaning to the language as written - “in the case of compensation injuries of occupational disease” - is challenging. In construing Article 11, the arbitrator did not, as Plaintiff argues, impermissibly ignore the plain language or rewrite the agreement. The arbitrator's interpretation of the language of Article 11 was within his authority and constituted a “plausible” interpretation of the agreement.

(Id., PageID # 278-9 (citation omitted).)

         The Court affirmed the Recommended Decision and denied Plaintiff's motion to vacate the arbitration award (Order Affirming Recommended Decision, ECF No. 24), and judgment was subsequently entered on the Court's order. (Judgment, ECF No. 25.) ...


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