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Rhode Island: Workers’ Comp Act Trumps CBA’s Arbitration of Reinstatement Disputes

March 09, 2017 (1 min read)

Rhode Island’s Workers’ Compensation Court has exclusive jurisdiction concerning reinstatement disputes. Accordingly, where a union member employee sustained a serious ankle injury, underwent surgery 10 months later, did not request a leave of absence and had not returned to work some 15 months after the original injury, his right to reinstatement was lost under R.I. Gen. Laws § 28–33–47(c)(1)(vi). Where the employee filed a grievance seeking reinstatement under the terms of the relevant collective bargaining agreement between his union and employer and the union demanded arbitration, the arbitrator was without power to find that the grievance was, indeed, arbitrable and that the employee was wrongfully terminated without just cause. Whether the two-year leave of absence contemplated by the CBA provided a longer window for the employee to seek reinstatement to his former position was not a decision for an arbitrator. Applicable state employment law trumped contrary contract provisions, contrary practices of the parties, and contrary arbitration awards.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Town of Cumberland v. Cumberland Town Employees Union, 2017 R.I. Super. LEXIS 38 (Feb. 23, 2017)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 100.01.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law