William E. Milks, Assistant Attorney General, Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellant.
Sarah E. Josephson, Jermain, Dunnagan & Owens, Anchorage, for Appellee Alaska Public Employees Association, AFT, AFL-CIO.
Steven T. Baseden, Juneau, pro se.
Before : MATTHEWS, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.
Facts and Proceedings
Steve Baseden was terminated from state employment. The Alaska Public Employees Association (APEA) filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between APEA and the State challenging Baseden's termination. The grievance was submitted to binding arbitration. By the time of the hearing, the State had conceded that Baseden's termination was without just cause and had offered him reinstatement. The arbitrator awarded back pay from the termination date, April 14, 2000, to the effective date of the reinstatement offer, October 15, 2001. Baseden's other employment earnings during this period were to be deducted from the award. Interest was required to be paid on the net award. The arbitrator assessed costs and fees against the State.
The State filed a complaint in superior court challenging, among other things, the arbitrator's award of interest. After briefs were submitted the superior court confirmed the arbitrator's award, including the award of interest. The State appeals only the superior court's confirmation of the interest award.
Standard of Review
We review the superior court's decision confirming the arbitrator's award de novo. An arbitrator's decision is accorded great deference. " Both the common law and Alaska statutes ‘ evince a strong public policy in favor of arbitration.’ "  To effectuate this public policy " we have followed a policy of minimal court interference with arbitration."  This deference extends to both the arbitrator's factual findings and the arbitrator's interpretation and application of the law.
" Where one party alleges that the arbitrator has exceeded his or her authority, we will affirm the arbitrator's conclusion as to the scope of his or her powers if ‘ the arbitrator's conclusion is reasonably possible.’ "  The standard of review of grievance arbitration arising out of labor management contracts mandated by the Public Employment Relations Act  (PERA) that are not subject to either of the Uniform Arbitration Acts  is " gross error."  " Gross error" encompasses
only mistakes that are both obvious and ...