Synopsis By: Dissen - Proceeding Author: Michael I. Sovern

Consensus holds that arbitrators may rely upon federal law as an aide in contract interpretation, and may rest a decision on federal law when expressly contractually authorized to do so. Less certain is when, if ever, an arbitrator should follow federal law rather than the labor agreement. Sovern asserts that an arbitrator may follow federal law rather than the contract when four predicates converge: the arbitrator is qualified to interpret federal law; the question of law is implicated in the contractual dispute; a contention is made that, if the conduct that has been grieved does violate the parties’ agreement, the conduct is nevertheless immunized or required by law; and courts lack primary jurisdiction over the question of law.