This appeal is from two orders by a district court in Alabama. The first order in June 2012 compelled arbitration of a dispute between the parties, the Union and Wise Alloys. The second order in December 2014 enforced the resulting arbitration award in the Union’s favor, but denied the Union’s request for attorneys’ fees. Wise Alloys appealed both the June 2012 and December 2014 orders, and the Union appealed the aspect of the December 2014 which denied its motion for attorneys’ fees. The procedural history and issues involved in the underlying case can be found here.
The Eleventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal of the June 2012 order which compelled arbitration because no notice of appeal was filed within 30 days of that order. The Court noted that the June 2012 order was a final decision and was appealable, and the fact that the order stayed the litigation (and did not dismiss it) did not impact the finality of the order compelling arbitration. Thus, because Wise Alloys did not file its notice of appeal within 30 days of the order, the Court had no jurisdiction over that aspect of the appeal.
With respect to Wise Alloys’ appeal of the December 2014 order and its challenge to the arbitration award based on its view that the arbitrator exceeded his authority, the Eleventh Circuit noted that its judicial review of arbitration awards is limited and that it specifically reviews a labor arbitration award for “whether [it] is irrational, whether it fails to draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement or whether it exceeds the scope of the arbitrator’s authority.” Thus, under this standard, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the arbitrator’s interpretation of the agreement, even if incorrect, was not an impermissible amendment or change to the agreement. It also held that the arbitrator was permitted to resort to extrinsic evidence to interpret an ambiguity he concluded was in the agreement. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s December 2014 order, confirming the arbitration award. In addition, it also confirmed the portion of the order denying the Union’s request for attorneys’ fees. United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers Int’l Union, et al. v. Wise Alloys, LLC, No. 14-15744 (11th Cir. Dec. 8, 2015).