After taking her nursing degree from a Canadian university and after graduating from the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Miss Lafferty became a National Labor Relations Board field examiner in the Boston area.
The purpose of this paper is to see whether there is any pattern of decisions by labor arbitrators in cases involving conflict of medical evidence. The source material for this study is awards reported in Summary of Labor Arbitration Awards between April 1959 and July 1967, and Labor Arbitration Reports for the years 1965, 1966 and 1967. A total of seventeen cases were examined.
These seventeen cases were not, of course, all the cases found in which facts about an employee's physical condition played a part. The others were disregarded in this study, however, because the arbitrator found it unnecessary to meet the medical issues head-on. Whatever the merit of those cases, they did not shed light on how an arbitrator, who is himself not an expert in medical matters, resolved questions that tum on disagreements between medical authorities as to the diagnosis of an illness or the fitness of an employee for his customary work.
In the typical case, the conflict is between the employee's personal physician, who says he is able to work, and the company's doctor, who refuses to clear him for work. A preliminary question sometimes is whether, under a contract that is silent on the matter, the company has the right to require clearance by the employer's medical officer.