CURIOUS COURT DECISION OVERTURNING ARBITRATOR’S OPINION
This case arose out a dispute between the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”) and the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s law enforcement agency. The FOP filed two grievances concerning the placement of newly-promoted patrol officers on the sergeants’ salary schedule. The FOP argued that placement of the sergeants on the schedule should be governed by their years of services, and the employer responded that the salary schedule placement was to be governed by the personnel rules.
An arbitrator decided that the grievance be upheld and that the contract was silent on the issue of placement of employees on the salary schedules. The arbitrator based his decision on the historic practice under which the Forest Preserve has based salary schedules on longevity with the Forest Preserve.
In an unusual decision, an Illinois Appellate Court overturned an arbitrator’s decision. The Court’s review of an arbitrator’s award is extremely limited, and will be upheld if the arbitrator acts within the scope of his or her authority. It is the arbitrator that decides the meaning of the contract in such cases to determine what the parties have bargained for. However, the Appellate Court overturned the arbitrator stating that he “imposed his own personal view of right and wrong on the labor dispute.” The Court continued that neither the arbitrator nor the FOP provided examples of the Forest Preserve’s historic practice and therefore there is no evidence of deviating from the personnel rules.
Forest Preserve District of Cook County v. Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, 33 PERI 91 (Ill. App. 2017).