Mont. Pub. Employees Ass’n v. City of BozemanAnnotate this Case
The City of Bozeman dismissed Robert Chase, a building inspector, and Chase claimed that the dismissal was improper. The Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA) gave notice to the City Manager of its decision to arbitrate Chase’s grievance according to the grievance procedure but failed to timely request a list of potential arbitrators from the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals. More than one year after the dispute arose, MPEA contacted the City to proceed with arbitration. The City declined to cooperate. More than four years after the dispute first arose, MPEA filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the City must participate in arbitration. The City asserted a counterclaim for declaratory relief. The district court granted summary judgment and issued declaratory relief to the City, concluding that Chase’s grievance did not survive MPEA’s failure to follow the agreement’s time limits and that MPEA waived any right to arbitrate through its four-year delay. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) whether a dispute remains arbitrable despite the failure to follow the an arbitration agreement’s procedures, including time limits, is a question of procedural arbitrability that is for an arbitrator and not for a court to decide; and (2) the City’s waiver argument was an issue for an arbitrator to decide.