What Labor Arbitrators Should Know About Arbitral Immunity - Chapter 17 - AAA Handbook on Labor Arbitration & ADR, 3rd Edition
Matthew M. Bodah
Matthew M. Bodah is a Labor Arbitrator and Mediator based in Newport, R.I. He is also a Professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Rhode Island. He can be reached at email@example.com.
CHAPTER 17 WHAT LABOR ARBITRATORS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ARBITRAL IMMUNITY
Matthew M. Bodah
Most professions face legal consequences for professional negligence. This is why professional liability insurance exists. At a training program for new labor arbitrators that I attended some years ago, the trainer suggested that we purchase liability insurance because the number of lawsuits against arbitrators was increasing. This was news to many in the room, particularly the non-lawyers, who never imagined that an award upholding a discharge from employment or loss of seniority or a promotion might lead a grievant to go after the arbitrator in court. Coincidently, shortly after I attended that training program, a colleague who has been a labor arbitrator for many years was sued for the first time by a grievant whose termination he had upheld.
There is no federal statute protecting arbitrators from liability. The Revised Uniform Arbitration Act does give arbitrators immunity to the same extent as judges. So there is some protection from liability in states that have adopted this model law. In addition, arbitrators are protected by the common law doctrine of arbitral immunity. However, this doctrine will not prevent arbitrators from being sued by dissatisfied arbitration litigants. The purpose of this chapter is to give labor arbitrators an overview of arbitral immunity and its application to labor arbitration.