Local 1336, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO v. First Student Inc.
An arbitration award that requires an employee's reinstatement, without indicating whether the employee is to be reinstated to work for the same school district as previously, is ambiguous. First Student Inc. hired Liz DeLuca as a bus driver for the Trumbull School District. In October 2009, DeLuca's son was on her bus as a passenger, because he was enrolled in one of the schools on DeLuca's bus route. A female student yelled that DeLuca's son had brought a Swiss Army knife onto the bus. DeLuca instructed her son to sit in the first row. First Student Inc. discharged DeLuca, because she did not promptly report the incident. The union filed a grievance. The arbitrator ordered First Student to "reduce the discipline to a verbal warning and . . . reinstate DeLuca to her former position and make her whole including full seniority, back pay and benefits." The Trumbull School District's transportation coordinator asked that First Student not permit DeLuca to drive for the Trumbull schools. First Student Inc. paid DeLuca $7,582 in back pay and offered her a Monroe route. The union filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award and claimed that First Student Inc. was required to reinstate DeLuca to her position as a bus driver for the Trumbull School District. The District Court found that the arbitrator's order that First Student Inc. "reinstate DeLuca to her former position" was ambiguous. It was not clear whether "former position" referred to working as a bus driver for any school district or to working as a bus driver for the Trumbull School District. "The express language of the Opinion and Award," wrote the District Court, "is silent about whether `former position' encompasses a geographic component." In a 1985 decision, Americas Ins. Co. v. Seagull Compania Naviera S.A., the 2nd Circuit wrote, "[A] court should not attempt to enforce an award that is ambiguous or indefinite." The 2nd Circuit added that ambiguous arbitration awards "should be remanded to the arbitrators so that the court will know exactly what it is being asked to enforce." The District Court remanded to the arbitrator.