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OIL, CHEMICAL AND ATOMIC WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 7-210. Plaintiff,
vs.
AMOCO PIPELINE COMPANY, Defendant.
 
Case:
No. 97 C 7764
 
Location:
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION
 
Date:
January 30, 1998, Decided
 
Attorneys:
For LOCAL 7-210 OIL, CHEMICAL AND ATOMIC WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, plaintiff: Barry Milton Bennett, Robert E. Bloch, Dowd, Bloch & Bennett, Chicago, IL.
For AMOCO PIPELINE COMPANY, defendant: Robert Michael O'Connell, Amoco Corporation, Chicago, IL.
 
Court:
JAMES B. MORAN, Senior Judge, U. S. District Court.
 
Author:
The Hon. Justice James B. Moran
 

Plaintiff ("Union") seeks to enforce an arbitration award. Defendant ("Amoco") does not disagree that the award should be enforced -- but it disagrees about what the award means. Each claims the award is unambiguous, and we disagree. Accordingly, we remand to the arbitrator for clarification. In the meantime, Earl Clark, the grievant, is entitled to immediate reinstatement so long as he agrees to abide by the substance abuse professional's (SAP) plan during the period prior to clarification, and otherwise complies with the conditions of the award. Whether or not he is entitled to back pay, and whether he must agree to a longer period of compliance with the SAP's plan, will depend on the nature of that clarification.

The dispute began when Clark was involved, with a company vehicle, in an accident on July 1, 1996, and tested at a .08 blood alcohol level. Amoco discharged him in August 1996. He filed a grievance, which was eventually heard in arbitration in January 1997. The arbitrator issued her decision on June 11, 1997. She agreed that the offense merited discipline but thought the discharge draconian, given Clark's 29 years of unblemished service and various mitigating factors. She ruled that Clark was to be reinstated, that prior to his reinstatement that he pass a "return-to-duty test" within the meaning of the Alcohol Misuse Prevention Plan" (AMP), and that Clark be subject to random alcohol testing for a year after reinstatement. She also ruled as follows:

Par. 3 . The Employer shall promptly refer Clark to a substance abuse professional who shall determine what assistance, if any, Clark needs in resolving problems associated with alcohol misuse.

Clark did pass a "return-to-duty" test and, based upon the present record, he is not drinking and is following the assistance program recommended by an SAP. While he originally agreed to follow such a program in the future, he now balks at committing himself to do so for whatever period may be specified by the SAP. Amoco insists that he must do so before reinstatement because that is required before the SAP approves his reinstatement, and such approval is a precondition. The Union contends that the only condition of reinstatement is passing the ""return-to-duty" test, which he has done.

We think it is useful to begin by discussing what this case is not about. It is not about the desirability of substance abuse treatment programs. It is not about the likelihood of relapse if the substance abuser tries to cope on his own. It is not about whether or not Clark has consumed alcohol since he said he stopped. It is not about whether or not the AMPP is binding upon the Union, with adherence a condition of employment. (That issue was not before the arbitrator and it is too late to raise it with the context of this discharge and reinstatement.) It is not about what the AMPP means. In that regard we do note that the AMPP conditions reinstatement upon completion of any treatment recommended by the SAP, but that could take two years or more. A brief review of the record indicates that the policy means at most that the employee is to be evaluated by the SAP and, so long as he or she evidences a willingness to begin and continue in the indicated treatment program, the SAP will approve reinstatement and the employee will be reinstated.

The very narrow issue presented is what the arbitrator meant by par. 3 of the award. One meaning could be as follows: (A) professional assistance will be helpful to Clark in resolving his problems, and the company has that assistance available. Therefore, he should be evaluated. He is, however, not required to follow a recommended program if he can abstain from drinking on his own. The company is protected by the right to engage in random alcohol testing. An alternative is (B) the AMPP appears to require an evaluation and an agreement to adhere to a recommended treatment program before reinstatement is approved. That makes sense, and it should be so required here.

The Union insists that it did not agree that the AMPP was binding, nor did it agree to its meaning, and it disputes the applicability of AMPP as a condition of employment. But that issue was not before the arbitrator or this court. If it has spilled over and impacted this grievance, that is unfortunate. The fact remains, however, that at the arbitration the Union was fighting for Clark's job and it was much more hospitable to an AMPP approach in those circumstances than it apparently is now. This is not the forum to decide how the AMPP fits into the collective bargaining universe. There are well understood procedures to pursue that issue when it arises in some other disciplinary proceeding. The context of the arbitration hearing lends some credence, however, to the notion that the arbitrator had alternative (B) in mind, and the language of par. 3 equally permits the conclusion that she opted for alternative (A) -- or some variation of either alternative. That, of course, is not something this court should decide.

The motion for summary judgment is denied. The cross motion for summary judgment is denied. This matter is remanded to the arbitrator for clarification, subject to the conditions in the interim already described.