The author is a retired professor of educational administration at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is an arbitrator with the AAA and the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service, and a fact finder/arbitrator with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
As the use of last chance agreements between employers and problem workers becomes more commonplace, controversies arising over their proper interpretation are increasing in number. One area of confusion is the finality of the agreement. Where access to the grievance and arbitration clause of the parties' collective bargaining contract has been specifically waived in the agreement, the imposition of the penalty dictated by the agreement is automatic and not arbitrable. Progressive discipline or mitigating circumstances cannot be considered by the arbitrator. Courts will vacate an arbitrator's reinstatement award if the decision was based on "just cause" principles where the penalty for violation of the last chance agreement is final termination . Such confusion may indicate the need for a greater clarification of the arbitrable principles applicable to last chance agreements, as well as the extent of authority conferred upon arbitrators by these agreements.