AFSCME, COUNCIL 4, LOCAL 1565 v. STATE OF CONNECTICUT, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION et al., SC 18187
Judicial District of Hartford
Labor; Arbitration; Whether Arbitrator Improperly Determined that the Termination of a Correction Officer's Employment was for Just Cause due to the Officer's Acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitation. In 2003, Eunice Smith, a correction officer, was charged with various criminal offenses in connection with an incident in which she allegedly threatened a coworker. After Smith accepted accelerated rehabilitation for those charges, she was terminated from her employment with the defendant department of correction. The plaintiff union subsequently initiated an arbitration proceeding on behalf of Smith, and the arbitrator determined that Smith's termination was for just cause. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, which the trial court denied. On appeal to the Appellate Court, the plaintiff argued that the arbitrator exceeded her authority by basing her decision on the ground that Smith's acceptance of accelerated rehabilitation indicated that she had assumed culpability for the criminal charges. It also claimed that the award violated the public policy underlying the pretrial accelerated rehabilitation statute, General Statutes § 54-56e, namely, that acceptance of accelerated rehabilitation may not be equated with an admission of guilt. The Appellate Court (107 Conn. App. 321) rejected the plaintiff's claims and affirmed the trial court's judgment. It decided that § 54-56e and Connecticut case law indicate that an arbitrator may consider an individual's acceptance of accelerated rehabilitation in rendering an arbitration award and that, in any event, the arbitrator in the present matter did not rely exclusively on Smith's acceptance of accelerated rehabilitation in making her decision. It further rejected the plaintiff's public policy argument, stating that the only right that a criminal defendant may earn under § 54-56e is the right to a dismissal of the charges upon the satisfactory completion of a period of probation and that one who takes advantage of the statute may still be guilty of a crime. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was correct.