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Arbitrator's Decision Reversed Where It Violated Public Policy
Description Appeals court reversed the decision of an arbitrator to reinstate a worker who had been fired for threatening to kill another employee and his family. The fired worker had an injunction issued against him to stay away from the other employee, including at work. The injunction is public policy that the arbitrator cannot violate.
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Labor Arbitration; Threats; Public Policy
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Camm began working for the City of Palo Alto in 1983. He frequently threatened coworkers with violence if they did not perform their jobs, but no one seemed to take him seriously. By 1997 he was having trouble at work and issuing more threats, especially to Bingham. Bingham told Camm that he had complained about him to their supervisor. Camm threatened to shoot Bingham, his wife, and their baby if he was fired. He later repeated the threat. Camm was arrested and spent a week in jail. The City fired Camm and Bingham obtained an injunction ordering Camm to stay away from Bingham, where he worked, and where he lived. Camm appealed his firing through his union to binding arbitration. The arbitrator ordered Camm reinstated, holding that the threat was just workplace talk. The City appealed; the union defended Camm on the appeal.
Decision Reversed. "With limited exceptions, an arbitrator's decision is not generally reviewable for errors of fact or law, whether or not such error appears on the face of the award and causes substantial injustice to the parties." Review is generally limited to instances in which the decision violates a statutory right or public policy. Here public policy was expressed in the injunction against Camm to be near Bingham, including at work. Camm could not be reinstated without violating the terms of the injunction. Public policy requires obedience to court orders.
Citation City of Palo Alto v. Service Employees International Union, Local 715, 91 Cal.Rptr.2d 500 (Ct. App., Calif., 1999)

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