Coca-Cola Files Complaint to Vacate Arbitrator’s Award Contrary to its Collective Bargaining Agreement

On Tuesday, Coca-Cola Beverages NorthEast, Inc. filed a complaint in the District of Massachusetts against Local Union No. 170 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters requesting the court vacate an arbitrator’s award issued following arbitration between the parties.

According to the complaint, Coca-Cola Beverages NorthEast is a Delaware corporation that owns and operates a sales center located in Westborough, Massachusetts. The complaint further states that the Union is a labor organization with a principal office in Worcester, Massachusetts that represents a bargaining unit at the Westborough sales center. The complaint purports that the plaintiff and defendant are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement that provides the terms and conditions of employment for bargaining unit employees at the Westborough sales center. 

According to Coca-Cola’s complaint, the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows Coca-Cola Beverages NorthEast to promulgate and enforce company rules and to enforce penalties for their violations. Additionally, the Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a grievance and arbitration process requiring the parties to enter arbitration if the grievance process cannot successfully resolve the dispute. As part of the grievance and arbitration process, the Collective Bargaining Agreement states an arbitrator may interpret the Agreement and apply it to the particular case presented to him, but he shall not have the authority to add to, subtract from or modify the terms of this Agreement or of any supplemental agreement reached between the parties.” 

The plaintiff alleges that the parties entered into arbitration, pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, over the termination of a Union member, Calderon. The complaint states that Calderon was terminated for falsifying time entries and company records to claim he was working when he was not physically present nor actually working thus amounting to time theft. 

The complaint states that on February 10, the arbitrator issued a decision finding that Calderon committed misconduct warranting discipline, but nonetheless ordered Coca-Cola Beverages NorthEast to reinstate Calderon and reduce his discipline to a written warning.

The complaint states that the arbitrator found nine separate and discrete instances of Calderon not working while representing himself through his time entries and other records as physically present and actively performing work, but still exceeded her authority and disregarded the Collective Bargaining Agreement by stating it did not constitute time theft or falsification. Further, the complaint states that the arbitrator denounced the applicability of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and further “added to” and “modified” the Agreement contrary to its specific language. 

The plaintiff argues that the arbitrator ignored the express terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which assigned disciplinary discretion to the plaintiff and prohibited the Arbitrator from substituting her own judgment, when she ordered the reinstatement of a terminated employee who was terminated for theft, records falsification and dishonesty. Therefore, the plaintiff requests the court to vacate the award issued by the arbitrator.

Coca-Cola Beverages NorthEast is represented by The Bennett Law Firm P.A