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Media Alerts - Fraternal Order of Police v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Auth. -- Fourth Circuit
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April 30, 2015
  Fraternal Order of Police v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Auth. -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Employers May Fire Employees Twice So Long as There Is New Justification

Area of Law:
Arbitration

Issue Presented:
Whether firing two police officers, reinstating them pursuant to an arbitration award, and then terminating them again for a different reason was a violation of the arbitration award.

Brief Summary: In 2011, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") fired two of its police officers for misconduct. WMATA's collective bargaining agreement establishes a grievance procedure for resolving labor disputes, which are ultimately decided by the Board of Arbitration. The Fraternal Order of Police ("FOP") filed grievances for both officers. The cases reached arbitration where the Board decided that although WMATA had legitimate grounds for disciplining the officers, a lengthy suspension was more appropriate. The Board ordered WMATA to reinstate the officers. WMATA did as instructed. However, because of their initial termination, both officers had lost their Maryland law enforcement officer certification. This certification was required of all WMATA officers. The two officers were therefore disqualified to serve as WMATA police officers until they were recertified. WMATA placed the officers on paid administrative leave while they sought their recertification. Maryland declined to recertify the officers, in part due to a scathing WMATA report. WMATA then fired the officers again - this time for failing to regain certification. The FOP filed suit alleging that by terminating the officers a second time WMATA failed to adhere to the arbitration award in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. The District Court granted the FOP's motion for summary judgment. WMATA appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

On appeal, WMATA argued that it abided by the arbitration award when it re-hired the officers and placed them on administrative leave pending their application for recertification. WMATA argued that the FOP, thus, could not use the arbitration award as a basis for challenging the second termination. Whether an employee has any recourse after he has been terminated, ordered reinstated by an arbitrator, and then terminated again for an independent reason was an issue of first impression in the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit agreed with two other circuits that "arbitration awards do not prevent an employer from taking future disciplinary action when confronted with new facts." The court found that Maryland's denial of certification provided a new, independent basis for termination - one that the Board of Arbitration had not considered when issuing its award. Therefore, the award was irrelevant to the second termination. Accordingly the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the FOP.

To read the full text of this opinion, please click here.

Panel: Chief Judge Traxler, Judges Niemeyer and Motz

Argument Date: 01/29/2015

Date of Issued Opinion: 03/10/15

Docket Number:
No. 14-1332

Decided: Reversed by published opinion.

Case Alert Author: Roy Lyford-Pike, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: ARGUED: Gerard J. Stief, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Jonathan G. Axelrod, BEINS, AXELROD, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Robert G. Ames, Maggie T. Grace, VENABLE LLP, Washington, D.C.; Kathryn Pett, General Counsel, Janice L. Cole, Chief Counsel, Metro Transit Police, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Justin P. Keating, BEINS, AXELROD, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Motz

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor:
Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/30/2015 10:28 AM     4th Circuit  

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