United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America v. Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC

Issue Discussed: Functus Officio

Submitted by Linsey M. Routledge, Troy Shuman

Date Promulgated: October 20, 2015


United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America v. Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC, (804 F.3d 270)

Case Number: 15-1002

Court: United States Circuit Court for the Second Circuit

Issue Decided: Did the functus officio doctrine prevent the Arbitrator from making a second, contradictory, award?

Short Answer: No, the Arbitrator was empowered to make two awards and nothing required them to be the same.

Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (“TZC”) was awarded the project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. As the project progressed, a jurisdictional dispute arose between two unions, the Dockbuilders Local 1556 (“Dockbuilders”) and Carpenters Local 279 (“Carpenters”) regarding task assignments. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“United”) represented both unions. Pursuant to the New York State Thruway Project Labor Agreement Covering the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project (“Project Labor Agreement”), the assignment dispute was submitted to the Plan Administrator for resolution in January 2014. United requested that the Plan Administrator hold in abeyance any action on the dispute while the unions negotiated a settlement. In April 2014, the unions successfully negotiated a settlement and the Plan Administrator reassigned task assignments accordingly.

TZC opposed the reassignment due to the increased costs and requested arbitration under the Project Labor Agreement. Under that agreement, the arbitrator was required to issue a short form award within five days of the hearing and a written decision within thirty days of the hearing. In early May, the Arbitrator issued an initial finding against TZC (“May 4 Award”). TZC noticed a timely appeal pending the full written decision. One week later, the Arbitrator issued a full written decision contradicting the short form award and granting judgment in TZC’s favor (“May 13 Award”). United elected not to appeal the May 13 Award and instead sought confirmation of the May 4 Award in the Southern District of New York. TZC answered and cross-petitioned for confirmation the May 13 Award. The District Court found that the Arbitrator conducted the proceeding consistent with the Project Labor Agreement and, pursuant to the Project Labor Agreement, the initial award was not a final award. Since, the initial award was not final, the arbitrator “did not exceed his authority by issuing the [May 13 Award].”

On appeal, the Union argued that the arbitrator was functus officio after he issued the May 4 Award, and therefore lacked the power to further rule. The Court held that functus officio takes effect when the arbitrators fully exercise the powers conferred upon them. Since the May 4 Award required a second, fully written decision, the Court found that functus officio did not take effect until the Arbitrator issued the full written decision and the Arbitrator had not exceeded his powers. The District Court’s ruling was affirmed.



[1] Linsey M. Routledge is Senior Counsel and Troy Shuman is an Associate at Clyde & Co US LLP.