Federal appeals court upholds Kittanning hospital smoking ban
A federal appeals court today agreed that an arbitrator exceed his authority in ruling that ACMH Hospital's smoke-free policy at its Kittanning campus violated the hospital's contract with United Steelworkers Local 158-06.
The union represents clerks, nurses' aides and other nonprofessional workers at what was formerly known as Armstrong County Memorial Hospital. It filed a grievance after a smoking ban was implemented on Jan. 1, 2009. An arbitrator ruled the ban was unreasonable because employees were used to having a designated smoking area.
U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry overturned the arbitrator's decision in May. He ruled that the arbitrator's analysis exceeded the terms of the contract.
A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the arbitrator effectively tried to create a new right for employees by saying that their “expectations” of having designated smoking areas created a “protected local working condition,” a phrase that doesn't appear anywhere in the contract.