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Chamberlain Manufacturing Co. v. Local Lodge No. 847 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

February 13, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20), defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 13), and defendant's motion for attorney's fees (Doc. 19). Having been fully briefed and argued before the court, the matters are now ripe for disposition.

I. Case Background

At dispute in this case is arbitrator Walter DeTreux's decision of January 19, 2006, determining that plaintiff Chamberlain Manufacturing Company (hereinafter "Chamberlain" or "The Company") had violated its collective bargaining agreement with Local Lodge No. 847 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (hereinafter "The Union") by improperly testing workers whose injuries on the job were not the result of accidents. The Chamberlain plant manufactures steel into artillery shells for use by the United States military.

Chamberlain filed suit in February 2006 (Doc. 1), seeking to vacate Arbitrator DeTreux's decision under Section 195 of the Labor Management Relations Act. See 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) (establishing that "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affects commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.").

The policy in question in pertinent part establishes:

5. Drug and Alcohol Screening:

(a) Drug and/or alcohol testing will be required upon reasonable suspicion of use as defined below and without prior notice, or if the employee is involved in a safety hazard or accident while at work. (See Collective Bargaining Agreement, attached as Exhibit B to Complaint (Doc. 1) at 83). This policy was the result of negotiations for a contract that took effect in November 2004. The negotiations revealed that the Company sought a much stricter policy than the Union would agree to. The foregoing policy, the meaning of which the parties disputed in their grievance, resulted.

After the agreement went into effect, Chamberlain began to test every employee who reported an injury that required outside medical attention. The Union filed a grievance, pointing to 19 cases where an employee suffered an injury not caused by accident or a safety hazard, and arguing that under the policy these employees should not have been tested. The company argued that its testing met the language of the policy and the parties' discussions during contract negotiations.

This disagreement went before an arbitrator, as required by Article 24 of the contract between the parties. (See CBA, Art. 24 at 30-32). Under this article, a grievance that cannot be resolved by the parties on the company level is submitted to an arbitrator with the Philadelphia Office of the American Arbitration Association. (Id. at 32). The arbitrator was selected according to the Labor Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association, and the arbitrator held a hearing. (Id.). Article 24 states that "The arbitrator shall decide any question of arbitrability. The arbitrator's award shall be final and binding upon the Company and Union, as well as upon the Grievant(s). The arbitrator shall have no authority or jurisdiction to add to, modify, alter or nullify any provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement." (Id.).

The arbitrator addressed the following question: "Did the Employer violate Section 5(a) of the Drug and Alcohol Policy when it referred for testing all employees who reported an injury requiring outside medical attention? If so, what is the remedy?" (IAMAW Local Lodge No. 847 and Chamberlain Mfg. Corp., American Arbitration Case No. 14 300 611 05, January 19, 2006 (Hereinafter "Arbitration Decision") Attached as Exhbt. A. to complt., at 3). In his decision, the arbitrator noted that both sides discussed the negotiations that led to the policy, though they disagreed about the position that the other side took during those discussions. (Id. at 1, 3). The arbitrator determined that those discussions might be useful in interpreting the parties' intent, but determined that "I am required first to examine the language of the contract and, in this case, the language of the proposals." (Id.).

The arbitrator pointed out that neither "accident" or "safety hazard," was defined in the collective bargaining agreement, and determined that the dispute between the parties concerned the meaning of "accident." (Id.). The employer had argued that it could test because the term "accident" covered every injury in the workplace, and because the parties had used "injury" and "accident" interchangeably in their negotiations. (Id.). The only restriction was that the injury had to require outside medical attention. (Id.). The Union contended that injuries could occur without an accident, and therefore testing was limited to those incidents where an employee suffered an injury from an accident. (Id. at 3-4).

The arbitrator found that the contract did not support the employer's claim that it could drug test employees for any reported injury requiring outside medical attention. (Id. at 4). He reasoned that if the parties had wanted to include the limitation of requiring outside medical attention, they would have included the phrase in the contract. (Id. at 4-5). A similar lack of a specific statement also undermined a company argument that it had a right to test any worker who suffered an injury that required an OSHA report. (Id. at 5).

The arbitrator also rejected the Company's position that "accident" and "injury" were interchangeable and permitted testing of any injured worker. (Id. at 6). The arbitrator noted that the employer's argument was weakened by the fact that it did not send all injured workers for testing, though its argument would seem to allow it. (Id.). The arbitrator also concluded that "the plain meaning of accident does not include injury." (Id.). The arbitrator looked to a dictionary definition, as well as a thesaurus, and concluded that one could have an injury without having an accident. (Id.). The arbitrator also looked to Pennsylvania law, finding that courts have concluded that an injury could occur without an accident in the workers' compensation context. (Id. at 7). In addition, the company had passed on contractual language offered by the union that would have supported the employer's interpretation of the present contract. (Id.). The union had proposed that testing be given to any employee who suffered an "accident or other incident" at work that led to an injury. (Id.). Since the company rejected language that would have included all injured workers, Chamberlain could not later obtain such language. (Id.).

Accordingly, the arbitrator found that the Company did not have a right to test the 19 employees who had submitted evidence that they had injuries which resulted from daily trauma or aggravation of a previous injury. (Id. at 8). He determined that "the Employer violated Section 5(a) of the Drug and Alcohol policy when it tested employees whose injuries were not attributable to accidents." (Id.). The arbitrator therefore sustained the grievance. (Id.). As a remedy, he ordered the employer "to cease and desist from drug and alcohol testing employees ...

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