Arbitrator upholds NFL's use of paid leave for players under personal conduct policy

An arbitrator has ruled against the NFL Players Association in its grievance, filed more than a year ago, that the league's personal conduct policy implemented in late 2014 violated terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union had challenged the authority granted to commissioner Roger Goodell to make wide-ranging decisions on discipline, as well as the NFL's use of paid leave and its use of the Commissioner Exempt List in disciplining players accused of being in violation of the personal conduct policy.

The NFL maintained that the commissioner's authority to discipline players for conduct detrimental to the league has been a part of every CBA negotiated by the league and NFLPA. The league said the use of paid leave was not a form of discipline but rather part of a longstanding practice of the commissioner to address allegations of violence and serious criminal behavior on a temporary basis while an investigation is under way.

Arbitrator Jonathan B. Marks encouraged the sides to reach a settlement on the matter, but those talks broke off two weeks ago. In his 54-page decision, Marks backed up the commissioner's authority as well as the use of paid leave.

Marks did say, however, that provisions of the policy related to disciplinary officer Todd Jones's ability to issue discipline on his own violated terms of the CBA. Marks encouraged the sides to work out their differences on that matter, as well as disputes over elements in the policy pertaining to counseling, treatment, therapy and enhanced supervision.

The arbitrator retained jurisdiction over the matter, pending the NFL and NFLPA's ability to work through the remaining issues.