Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers, 531 U.S. 57, 6 (2000)

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Opinion of the Court

ers v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U. S. 593, 599 (1960). They have "bargained for" the "arbitrator's construction" of their agreement. Ibid. And courts will set aside the arbitrator's interpretation of what their agreement means only in rare instances. Id., at 596. Of course, an arbitrator's award "must draw its essence from the contract and cannot simply reflect the arbitrator's own notions of industrial justice." Paperworkers v. Misco, Inc., 484 U. S. 29, 38 (1987). "But as long as [an honest] arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority," the fact that "a court is convinced he committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his decision." Ibid.; see also Enterprise Wheel, supra, at 596 (the "proper" judicial approach to a labor arbitration award is to "refus[e] . . . to review the merits"). Eastern does not claim here that the arbitrator acted outside the scope of his contractually delegated authority. Hence we must treat the arbitrator's award as if it represented an agreement between Eastern and the union as to the proper meaning of the contract's words "just cause." See St. Antoine, Judicial Review of Labor Arbitration Awards: A Second Look at Enterprise Wheel and Its Progeny, 75 Mich. L. Rev. 1137, 1155 (1977). For present purposes, the award is not distinguishable from the contractual agreement.

We must then decide whether a contractual reinstatement requirement would fall within the legal exception that makes unenforceable "a collective-bargaining agreement that is contrary to public policy." W. R. Grace & Co. v. Rubber Workers, 461 U. S. 757, 766 (1983). The Court has made clear that any such public policy must be "explicit," "well defined," and "dominant." Ibid. It must be "ascertained 'by reference to the laws and legal precedents and not from general considerations of supposed public interests.' " Ibid. (quoting Muschany v. United States, 324 U. S. 49, 66 (1945)); accord, Misco, supra, at 43. And, of course, the question to be answered is not whether Smith's drug use itself violates public

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