Carlton Fields

An arbitrator resolved a dispute between the parties in favor of the union, deciding that Exide Technologies had violated the collective bargaining agreement and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by unilaterally changing its procedures for implementing the Family and Medical Leave Act without bargaining with the union. Exide sought to vacate the award and the union sought to confirm it. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas confirmed the arbitrator’s finding of a collective bargaining agreement violation but concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the NLRA finding.

Procedurally, the union had filed a grievance, and then filed two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB deferred pursuant to its policy that “the NLRB will conditionally dismiss a case when a set of facts may present not only an alleged violation of the NLRA but also an alleged breach of the collective-bargaining agreement subject to arbitration. However, the NLRB retains limited jurisdiction to decide, among other things, whether an arbitrator has reached a result repugnant to the NLRA.” The parties proceeded to arbitration.

The district court confirmed the arbitrator’s collective bargaining agreement ruling, because it drew its essence from the parties’ agreement. However, the district court decided it lacked jurisdiction to review the arbitrator’s NLRA ruling and that Exide should have moved the NLRB to reopen the deferred unfair labor practice charges so that the NLRB can review the arbitrator’s findings. The Eighth Circuit ruled that when a court possesses jurisdiction to decide a collective bargaining agreement issue under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, it is not preempted from exercising its jurisdiction by the fact that the employer’s conduct may also violate the NLRA. However, section 301 does not provide the court with original jurisdiction to decide whether Exide violated the NLRA, and the NLRA had retained jurisdiction to determine whether the arbitrator’s actions were appropriate.

Exide Technologies v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 700, No. 19-2317 (8th Cir. July 10, 2020).