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American University Law Review

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arbitration, external authority, labor arbitration


Labor and Employment Law | Law


Should arbitrators consider authority-such as statutes or case law-external to the collective bargaining agreement when deciding labor grievances? Do they rely on such external authority? If so, do they do so in particular circumstances or in certain types of cases? To provide more insight on this often-debated issue, we have amassed a new data set of hundreds of labor arbitration awards spanning a decade. In contrast to previous research, we find that the overwhelming majority of awards do not cite to any external authority (statutes, administrative authorities, case law, or secondary sources). Yet, only a small fraction of awards explicitly decline to address a statutory issue or do not address external authority cited by one of the parties and mentioned in the award. Other significant findings: one or both parties being represented by an attorney in the arbitration hearing correlates with citation to external authority. Instances where arbitrators are drawn from the American Arbitration Association or the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service rosters result in a greater likelihood of citation to authority than when arbitrators are selected without aid of a service provider. Awards addressing claims asserting a breach of a just-cause provision are more likely than other types of contractual claims to cite to external authority.



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