FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2015-06-3032
CALLENDER and PAUL L. COX, Attorneys at Law, for Appellants.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and COLLEEN SIMS,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
Appellant, the Fraternal Order of Police, appeals an order
that vacated an arbitration award. This Court reverses.
Deputy Angela Molea submitted a request to her employer, the
Summit County Sheriff, to use bereavement leave to attend the
funeral of her husband's grandfather under a provision of
the parties' collective bargaining agreement that
permitted the use of bereavement leave for
"grandparents." Although similar requests had been
granted in the past, the Sheriff denied her request, citing
the execution of a new collective bargaining agreement and a
memorandum from the Sheriff informing employees that all past
practices had been discontinued as a result. Instead, the
Sheriff informed Deputy Molea that she could request sick
leave to cover her absence.
Deputy Molea grieved the decision, and the Union pursued the
grievance through arbitration on her behalf. On May 21, 2015,
arbitrator William C. Binning issued an award in favor of
Deputy Molea, concluding that the terms of the collective
bargaining agreement were ambiguous, that the ambiguity could
be resolved by resort to the parties' established past
practices, and that the Sheriffs memorandum constituted an
attempt to circumvent the collective bargaining process.
The Sheriff filed an application to vacate or modify the
arbitration award, and the Union filed an application to
confirm the award styled as a counterclaim. The trial court
concluded that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority by
relying on the parties' past practice and vacated the
award. The Union filed this appeal.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN VACATING AND
MODIFYING THE ARBITRATION AWARD BY FINDING THAT THE
ARBITRATOR EXCEEDED HIS AUTHORITY IN INTERPRETING ARTICLE 24
OF THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT.
The Union's first assignment of error is that the trial
court abused its discretion by granting the Sheriffs
application to vacate the arbitration award. We agree.
Ohio's public policy strongly favors arbitration, as
expressed in the Ohio Arbitration Act codified in R.C.
Chapter 2711. Taylor v. Ernst & Young, LLP., 130
Ohio St.3d 411, 2011-Ohio-5262, ¶ 18. Consistent with
this policy, R.C. Chapter 2711 limits the jurisdiction of
trial courts once arbitration has been conducted. See
State ex rel R. W. Sidley, Inc. v. Crawford, 100 Ohio
St.3d 113, 2003-Ohio-5101, ¶ 22. "An arbitration
award may be challenged only through the procedure set forth
in R.C. 2711.13 and on the grounds enumerated in R.C. 2711.10
and 2711.11. * * * 'The jurisdiction of the courts to
review arbitration awards is thus statutorily restricted; it
is narrow and it is limited.'" Miller v.
Gunckle,96 Ohio St.3d 359, 2002-Ohio-4932, ¶ 10,
quoting Warren Edn. Assn. v. Warren City Bd. of
Edn.,18 Ohio St.3d 170, 173 (1985). In applying R.C.
Chapter 2711, Ohio courts defer to arbitration awards and
presume their validity. Lauro v. Twinsburg, 9th
Dist. Summit No. 23711, 2007-Ohio-6613, ...