United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
T. Neff United States District Judge
an action to vacate an arbitration award. Plaintiff
Transitional Health Services of Fremont
(“Fremont”) employed Kenneth Span as a Certified
Nurse Aid (CNA) at its facility in Fremont, Michigan, for
over 14 years. Fremont terminated Span in December 2016
following an investigation into possible employee misconduct
at the facility. Span filed a grievance about his termination
in accordance with the grievance procedure in a collective
bargaining agreement (CBA) between Fremont and Defendant
Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Michigan
(“SEIU”). SEIU represented, and continues to
represent, Span in connection with that grievance. The CBA
calls for arbitration of grievances that are not resolved
through the initial grievance process. The parties submitted
the grievance to an arbitrator, who found in favor of Span.
now seeks to undo the arbitrator's decision. In a
counterclaim, SEIU seeks enforcement of the arbitration
award. Before the Court is Fremont's motion to vacate the
arbitration award (ECF No. 8) and SEIU's motion for
summary judgment (ECF No. 28). For the reasons herein, the
Court finds in favor of SEIU. Its motion for summary judgment
will be granted and Fremont's motion to vacate the
arbitration award will be denied.
worked the night shift on December 4-5, 2016, at
Fremont's long-term care and rehabilitation facility in
Fremont, Michigan. As his shift ended, several nurses
reporting to work noticed that a number of residents were
lying in urine-soaked bedsheets. They reported these
conditions to Fremont. Fremont suspended Span from work a few
days later, pending an investigation. Fremont terminated Span
on December 12, 2016.
filed a grievance, claiming that Fremont suspended and
terminated him without just cause, in violation of the CBA.
In cases involving “resident/patient neglect or abuse,
” “just cause” means that the employer
“has a reasonable belief that the employee engaged in
the acts or omissions that led to the discipline related to
resident/patient care.” (CBA ¶ 12.10, ECF No.
also claimed that Fremont committed an “unfair labor
practice” under the National Labor Relations Act, 29
U.S.C. § 158(a), because it terminated him due to his
involvement in union activities.
provides a grievance procedure to resolve disputes about
“disciplinary actions taken by the Employer, ”
“contract interpretations, ” and
“conditions of employment.” (CBA ¶ 12.1.) If
the grievance is not resolved through the preliminary steps
of the process, the parties can submit the grievance to an
arbitrator. (Id. ¶ 12.3.) The arbitrator's
decision is “final and binding on all parties, ”
and the arbitrator's award is “enforceable as the
agreement of the parties[.]” (Id. ¶
and SEIU submitted Span's grievance to an arbitrator, who
conducted a hearing over three days, on June 15, August 31,
and September 27, 2017. Following the hearing, the arbitrator
issued a 21-page opinion deciding the issues in Span's
favor. The arbitrator determined that Fremont terminated Span
without just cause because it did not have a reasonable
belief that he had neglected or abused residents.
(Arbitration Op. & Award, ECF No. 32-1, PageID.620.) The
arbitrator also determined that Fremont had engaged in an
unfair labor practice because Span's union activities
were a motivating factor in his termination. (Id.,
PageID.624.) The arbitrator decided that the appropriate
remedy is to reinstate Span and “make him whole.”
filed this action in state court to vacate the arbitration
award. SEIU removed the action to this Court, invoking
Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29
U.S.C. § 185, and filed a counterclaim for enforcement
of the arbitration award.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). The court must consider the evidence and all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.
Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 471 (6th Cir.
2013). The moving party has the initial burden of showing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Jakubowski
v. Christ Hosp., Inc., 627 F.3d 195, 200 (6th Cir.
2010). The burden then “shifts to the nonmoving party,
who must present some ‘specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id.
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)).
function of the Court is “not . . . to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “A dispute is
genuine if there is evidence ‘upon which a reasonable
jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving
party.' A factual dispute is material only if it could
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Smith v. Erie Cty. Sheriff's
Dep't, 603 Fed.Appx. 414, 418 (6th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Tysinger v. Police Dep't of City of
Zanesville, 463 F.3d 569, 572 (6th Cir. 2006)).
“The ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law.'” Back v.
Nestlé USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir.
2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).
Standard for Review of Labor Arbitration Awards
Court of Appeals recently summarized the federal courts'
standard for review of labor arbitration decisions as
Federal courts review arbitration decisions with a
deferential gaze. We ensure that the arbitrator (1) did not
commit fraud or other dishonesty, (2) resolved a dispute
fairly committed to arbitration, and (3) at least arguably
construed the collective bargaining agreement. Mich.
Family Res., Inc. v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Local
517M, 475 F.3d 746, 753 (6th Cir. 2007) (en banc). Just
as important is what we do not do. We do not ask whether the
arbitrator interpreted the contract correctly. We thus may
not overturn an arbitration decision on the ground that the
arbitrator made mistakes, whether “serious”
errors, id. at 756, or “improvident, even
silly, ” mistakes, United Paperworkers Int'l
Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 38-39
(1987). . . .
Econ. Linen & Towel Serv., Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of
Teamsters, Teamsters Local Union 637, 917 F.3d 512, 513
(6th Cir. 2019). This is “‘one of the narrowest
standards of judicial review in all of American
jurisprudence.'” DBM Techs., Inc. v. Local 227,
United Food & Commercial Workers Int'l Union,
257 F.3d 651, 656 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Lattimer-Stevens Co. v. United Steelworkers of Am.,
AFL-CIO, Dist. 27, Sub-Dist. 5, 913 F.2d 166, 1169 (6th