An issue that sometimes arises in arbitration is a concept called “equitable estoppel.” I’ll try to keep this short, so you don’t zone out or fall asleep. The quickest way to explain equitable estoppel is, one party cannot lead the other party to believe that they agree or will resolve the issue, and then change course and claim the other side was untimely when they object to the failure to resolve the issue. For example, there’s a case where the employer agreed to pay contractual severance pay for the employees it was laying off and confirmed in writing several times that they would do this. They did not do this. The union tried to contact the employer about it and didn’t hear back until the employer’s bankruptcy attorney told the union that the employer would not pay. The union filed a grievance and the employer claimed the grievance was outside the 3-day window for filing after the employees received their final paychecks. The arbitrator rejected that timeliness argument, saying the union didn’t affirmatively know they wouldn’t get it until the bankruptcy lawyer told them so. It was reasonable to believe, based on the employer’s earlier statements, they’d get the money.
The moral of the story is, arbitrators don’t like it when the parties try to play tricks, and are unlikely to find the grievance is not arbitrable if the side arguing for lack of arbitrability was playing games during the grievance procedure.