Thursday, April 03, 2008

Arbitrate Immorality?

The Cedarburg teacher-porn case continues.

For the second time, a court case involving Robert Zellner, a Cedarburg teacher fired for viewing pornography on his school computer, has been sent to the state Supreme Court, and this time, hundreds of thousands of employees covered by binding arbitration agreements could be affected.

Here's the question:

In September 2006, the arbitrator concluded that the School Board had reason only to reprimand Zellner and ordered the board to rehire him. When the board refused, Zellner sued.

A year ago, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph McCormack overturned the decision, saying the arbitrator failed to consider that Zellner's actions amounted to "immoral conduct."

McCormack wrote that "clearly, the expression of the public policy in this state as set forth in (state law) should be sufficient notice to any person that there will be severe consequences when any rule violation crosses into such type of conduct."

Predictably, WEAC (and the AFSCME) disagree.

Nicholas Fairweather, a Madison attorney who represents public employee unions, said the use of binding arbitration could change dramatically if the Supreme Court upholds the reversal of the arbitrator's decision.

"It would really turn arbitration on its head to allow this kind of open door for courts to overrule arbitration decisions," Fairweather said. "It would set, I believe, a very dangerous precedent and really take power away from arbitrators in this state."

Well, if arbitrators choose to ignore public-policy having to do with flagrantly immoral conduct, (in this particular case decidedly related to the employment situation,) then perhaps arbitrators should have their wings clipped.

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