City of Hartford and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1716
If the parties recognize that time restrictions in a collective bargaining contract may be difficult to meet and agree to waive them, a municipality may be estopped from relying on the time restrictions as a basis to claim that a grievance is not arbitrable. On Feb. 18, 2012, the City of Hartford concluded that Caniel Chung had resigned, because he allegedly had been absent from work without permission for four days. On March 24, the union filed a grievance. On June 14, the city issued a third step decision and denied the grievance. On October 24, the union filed an arbitration claim. On December 6, the union received the city's official notification that it did not believe that the arbitration claim was filed timely. A union representative, Anthony Bento, testified that Bento and the city's hearing officer agreed to modify the time restrictions for the city's issuance of third step decisions and the union's arbitration requests, and that the City of Hartford has not previously objected that arbitration claims were not filed timely. The collective bargaining contract requires the city to file the third step decision within 15 days and the union to file a request for arbitration within 20 days of receipt of the third step decision. When a contract includes an arbitration clause, a presumption of arbitrability exists, and doubts should be resolved in favor of arbitrability. Arbitrators found that the City of Hartford's response was not filed timely and that the city failed to establish reasonable cause. The parties recognized that the time restrictions would be difficult to meet and agreed to waive them. "In view of this mutual waiver," wrote the arbitrators, "we believe that the City should be estopped from relying on the grievance procedures time limits." The City of Hartford induced the union to waive the timeliness of the grievance process, because the city routinely did not provide a timely third step response or challenge the timeliness of the union's arbitration claims. The city took unfair advantage of the union and should not be allowed to claim that the grievance was not arbitrable. Arbitrators concluded that the grievance was arbitrable. Catherine Freeman and Alexandra Lombardi represented the City of Hartford. Anthony Bento represented the union.