In Mondelez Global LLC v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District No. 8, an employer prohibited its unionized employees from working seven consecutive days without a 24-hour rest period. The employer relied on the One Day Rest in Seven Act (“ODRISA”), 820 ILCS 140/1 in support of the rule. The Union filed many grievances claiming the rule violated the overtime provision in the Union’s contract. The grievances were consolidated and appealed to arbitration where an arbitrator ruled in the Union’s favor, “finding that a binding past practice had developed … which allowed employees to volunteer to work seven consecutive days without a 24-hour period of rest.” The employer filed a court action seeking to vacate the arbitration award on the ground that the award was contrary to the public policy contained in ODRISA.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois refused to vacate the arbitration award. According to the court, “the Arbitrator properly concluded there is no clear mandate in state law regarding the administration of ODRISA that would prohibit [the employer] from allowing employees with limitations to voluntarily decide to work seven consecutive days without a 24-hour period of rest.” The court noted that a former General Counsel with the Illinois Department of Labor opined “that employees could voluntarily choose to work without the 24-hour period of rest and waive their rights under ODRISA.” Moreover, the court characterized the language in ODRISA as permissive because it states that employers must “allow” employees a 24-hour rest period.
The court’s decision should serve as a reminder to employers that vacating an arbitration award on public policy grounds is limited to those instances of clear, well defined public policies.