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Arbitration Decision Contrary to Public Policy Is Not Necessarily Void
Description Supreme Court held that the refusal of an arbitrator to allow an employer to fire an employee for repeat drug use was not in violation of public policy; so the courts could not overturn the decision. While public policy opposes drug use, the procedure used in this employment situation followed proper procedure.
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Arbitration; Public Policy Exception
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Smith worked for Eastern Coal as a truck driver. He was subject to Department of Transportation regulations requiring random drug testing. Twice Smith tested positive for marijuana and each time Eastern sought to fire him. Both times his union went to arbitration, as required by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and both times the arbitrator concluded that drug use was not "just cause" for dismissal. The courts affirmed the decision of the arbitrator. Eastern appealed to the Supreme Court.
Decision Affirmed. Public policy considerations do not require courts to refuse to enforce an arbitration award ordering an employer to reinstate an employee who tested positive for drugs. The parties followed the procedure of the CBA, and the arbitrator held in favor of the union and the employee. Smith's drug use violated public policy, but the agreement to reinstate him did not. Public policy exceptions that allow arbitration decisions to be overturned are narrow. There is no federal regulation that requires dismissal of employees who test positive for drugs, even if more than once, so the arbitrators decision is not clearly in violation of public policy.
Citation Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America, 121 S.Ct. 462 (2000)

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