United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Christopher K. Wachtler, Esq., and Wachtler Law Office, 831 Como Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103, counsel for plaintiff.
Daniel R. Kelly, Esq., and Felhaber Larson, 220 South Sixth Street, Suite 2200, Minneapolis, MN 55402, counsel for defendants.
DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.
This matter is before the court upon the motion to vacate, or in the alternative, modify or correct the arbitrator's decision by plaintiff Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part.
This labor arbitration dispute arises out of staffing decisions made by defendant North Memorial Health Care (North Memorial) regarding weekend work for senior nurses. MNA represents nurses employed by North Memorial. Marsh Aff. Ex. A, at 1. North Memorial and MNA are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which took effect on June 1, 2013, and will expire on May 31, 2016. Id. § 65. Article 23 of the CBA sets forth the parties' agreement as to weekend work. Id. § 23. Section I prohibits North Memorial from requiring nurses "with thirty (30) calendar years of service at age fifty-five (55) or above" to work on weekends. Id. § 23(I). An exemption applies, however, if compliance with the provision "would deprive patients of needed nursing service." Id. Also relevant to this dispute, Article 6, Section A of the CBA governs "confirmed work agreements" for individual nurses. Id. § 6(A). That section provides that a nurse's confirmed work agreement "shall not be changed without consent of the nurse." Id.
Lynette Drake became exempt from weekend work on May 17, 2013. McMahon Aff. Ex. 2, at 7. She submitted a prospective request for no weekend work on March 4, 2013. Marsh Aff. Ex. B, at 6. North Memorial did not formally respond, and on July 31, 2013, MNA filed a grievance on Drake's behalf. Id. at 2. The next day, Drake filed a second request for no weekend work. Id. at 10. North Memorial denied the grievance on September 12, 2013, stating "we are not currently able to guarantee that allowing [Drake] to have every weekend off would not deprive patients of needed nursing service on the weekends." Id. at 3. Likewise, on September 20, 2013, Drake's nurse manager responded to her written requests, stating that allowing Drake weekends off would "decrease [weekend] coverage even further which could result in depriving patients of needed nursing service." Id. at 6, 10. MNA thereafter demanded arbitration under the CBA, and on June 6, 2014, a hearing was held before Arbitrator Richard John Miller. McMahon Aff. Ex. 2, at 1.
The parties submitted post-hearing briefs on July 7, 2014. Marsh Aff. Exs. C, D. North Memorial framed the relevant issue as: "Did the Medical Center violate Section 23(I) when it refused to regularly schedule [Drake] with no weekends?" Marsh Aff. Ex. C, at 4. MNA did not provide an issue statement. Id. Ex. D.
Arbitrator Miller issued an award on July 18, 2014. McMahon Aff. Ex. 2. Miller framed the issues to be decided as follows: "1. Did the Medical Center violate Article 23(I) of the Contract when it refused to regularly schedule [Drake] with no weekend work"; and "2. If so, what is the appropriate remedy?" Id. at 3. Miller found that North Memorial did not violate Article 23, Section I, because it had the "expressed right" to invoke the patient-care exception. Id. at 20, 24. Although Miller found no violation, he determined that the parties needed "a prospective standard for evaluating patient care in accordance with Section 23(I)." Id. at 21. In particular, Miller stated that it was "arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory to have [Drake] work all of the future scheduled weekends when similarly-situated qualifying nurses are exempt from this work." Id. at 22. Accordingly, he ordered that
if [North Memorial] invokes the "exception" proviso to compel qualifying nurses to work on weekends the number of required weekends shall be equally shared (divided) among those qualifying nurses....
Id. at 24. Miller found that requiring equal division of weekend work was "[t]he most sensible, reasonable and fairest solution for future weekend scheduling...." Id. at 21.
On October 14, 2014, MNA moved to vacate, or in the alternative modify or correct, the arbitration award, in Hennepin County District Court. ECF No. 1-1. North Memorial timely removed, and on December 12, 2014, MNA re-filed the motion in this court. ECF No. 12.
I. Standard of ...