The Supreme Court, ruling in a case stemming from layoffs at a California plant, Thursday made it easier for employers to evade binding arbitration of a union's grievance when the complaint centers on a since-expired contract.
The justices, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that Litton Financial Printing division, a subsidiary of Beverly Hills-based Litton Industries Inc., does not have to arbitrate a 1980 dispute with a printers' union.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court, said Litton does not have to submit the dispute to arbitration because the dispute arose after the union contract expired and was not related to some vested contractual right.
"A postexpiration grievance can be said to arise under the contract (and be subject to arbitration) only where it involves facts and occurrences that arose before expiration, where an action taken after expiration infringes a right that accrued or vested under the agreement, or where . . . the disputed contractual right survives expiration of the remainder of the agreement," Kennedy said.