Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers, 531 U.S. 57, 5 (2000)

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  Next

Cite as: 531 U. S. 57 (2000)

Opinion of the Court

for slightly more than three months; (2) reimburse Eastern and the union for the costs of both arbitration proceedings; (3) continue to participate in a substance-abuse program; (4) continue to undergo random drug testing; and (5) provide Eastern with a signed, undated letter of resignation, to take effect if Smith again tested positive within the next five years. Id., at 29a.

Eastern brought suit in federal court seeking to have the arbitrator's award vacated, arguing that the award contravened a public policy against the operation of dangerous machinery by workers who test positive for drugs. 66 F. Supp. 2d 796 (SDWV 1998). The District Court, while recognizing a strong regulation-based public policy against drug use by workers who perform safety-sensitive functions, held that Smith's conditional reinstatement did not violate that policy. Id., at 804-805. And it ordered the award's enforcement. Id., at 805.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed on the reasoning of the District Court. 188 F. 3d 501, 1999 WL 635632 (1999) (unpublished). We granted certiorari in light of disagreement among the Circuits. Compare id., at **1 (holding that public policy does not prohibit "reinstatement of employees who have used illegal drugs in the past"), with, e. g., Exxon Corp. v. Esso Workers' Union, Inc., 118 F. 3d 841, 852 (CA1 1997) (holding that public policy prohibits enforcement of a similar arbitration award). We now affirm the Fourth Circuit's determination.


Eastern claims that considerations of public policy make the arbitration award unenforceable. In considering this claim, we must assume that the collective-bargaining agreement itself calls for Smith's reinstatement. That is because both employer and union have granted to the arbitrator the authority to interpret the meaning of their contract's language, including such words as "just cause." See Steelwork-


Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007