Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

By
The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

By
During October 2008 the Trust lost $3.6 million trading futures contracts. Contending that errors by Dorman, a futures commission merchant, caused some of these losses, in October 2011 the Trust asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to order Dorman to make reparation, 7 U.S.C. 18(a)(1). The Commission dismissed the claim as untimely. The Trust had made a claim within the two-year limitations period, but with the National Futures Association, which referred it to arbitration. The arbitrators awarded the Trust $500,000 against several defendants but ruled in favor of Dorman because the Trust’s contract with that entity set a one‐year time limit for financial claims. The Commission rejected the Trust’s claim of equitable tolling. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The Trust knew about the trading losses as soon as they occurred but did nothing for almost two years; it did not diligently pursue the Commission’s processes. The Trust did not say that any circumstance, let alone an extraordinary one, prevented timely filing. The court reasoned that the arbitral award, right or wrong, has nothing to do with equitable tolling. View "Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" on Justia Law

By
In 2012, Jefferies, a securities and investment-banking firm, hired Frawley as its vice chairman and global head of metals and listed products. On the same day, Jeffries hired Webb, a sales executive in the global metals group headed by Frawley at a firm they had previously worked for, and Beversdorf, a director of that group. Webb and Beversdorf signed employment contracts, consenting “that any arbitration proceeding brought with respect to matters related to your employment or this Agreement shall be brought before [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] … or if the parties are permitted … [or] to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts. “ In 2013 Jefferies decided to get out of the iron ore business and ordered Frawley to tell Webb and Beversdorf to stop trading iron ore. Frawley did not tell them but pushed for more iron ore trades. Months later, Jefferies fired the two, who sued Frawley. Frawley successfully moved to compel arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that Beversdorf agreed to arbitration. Webb, however, did not sign such an agreement; the document he signed was just an agreement concerning venue. Webb remains free to litigate his dispute with Frawley in federal court. View "Webb v. Frawley" on Justia Law

By
Family Security Credit Union ("FSCU") appealed the trial court's denial of its motions to compel arbitration in eight separate but closely related cases. Action Auto Sales ("Action Auto") was a car-financing group that financed the vehicle inventory of Pine City Auto ("Pine City"), a used-car dealership. Action Auto held titles to the vehicles in inventory, and released a title only when a vehicle was sold, and Pine City paid off a proportional amount of the inventory financing. Pine City eventually went out of business without paying off the inventory financing on some of the vehicles it had sold. Action Auto sued Pine City and the purchasers of eight vehicles who had purchased vehicles from Pine City and financed those purchases through FSCU. Action Auto sought possession of the vehicles and money damages. The purchasers each filed counterclaims and cross-claims against Action Auto and Pine City and third-party claims against FSCU, alleging negligence, wantonness, and conspiracy. The purchasers' third-party claims against FSCU were based on FSCU's alleged failure to perfect its security interest in the vehicles before financing the purchasers of the vehicles. FSCU moved for each of those third-party claims to be submitted to arbitration. The purchasers opposed the motions to compel arbitration, but they did not submit any evidence. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in denying FSCU's motions to compel arbitration in each of the eight cases, and remanded all for further proceedings. View "Family Security Credit Union v. Etheredge" on Justia Law

By
SSC Selma Operating Company, LLC, doing business as Warren Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center, and SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC, appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to compel arbitration of a retaliatory-discharge claim filed against them by Jackie Fikes. Fikes sued the companies, seeking to recover worker's compensation benefits pursuant to the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act, and alleging that the companies had discharged her from her employment in violation of Ala. Code 1975, sec. 25–5–11.1, solely because she had filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits. Fikes alleged that in 2013, she suffered a work-related injury when she attempted to lift a patient while working for the companies as a certified nurse assistant; that she underwent medical treatment for her work-related injury; and that she returned to work under light-duty restrictions until Spring 2014, at which time, she says, the companies wrongfully terminated her employment. Fikes requested in the complaint that the worker's compensation claim and the retaliatory-discharge claim be severed in order for the retaliatory discharge claim to be tried by a jury. The companies moved to compel arbitration of the retaliatory discharge claim pursuant to their employment-dispute resolution program ("the EDR program") under which Fikes had agreed to be bound. Fikes responded, arguing that the retaliatory-discharge claim was not covered by the EDR program. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Fikes failed to demonstrate her retaliatory-discharge claim was not covered by the EDR program. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's order denying the companies' motion to compel arbitration of that claim. View "SSC Selma Operating Company, LLC v. Fikes" on Justia Law

By
Fair Labor Standards Act claims, not dependent on interpretation of collective bargaining agreement, need not be arbitrated, where arbitration clause does not include a clear waiver. Certified nursing assistants, sued their employer, Silver Care, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and related New Jersey laws, claiming that Silver underpaid them for overtime by failing to include certain hourly wage differentials in the calculation of plaintiffs’ regular rate of pay, and by deducting plaintiffs’ half-hour meal breaks from their total hours worked, although they often worked through those breaks. Silver unsuccessfully moved to dismiss or to stay the proceedings, citing the arbitration clause in the governing collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Third Circuit affirmed. A court may compel arbitration of a plaintiff’s federal statutory claim when the arbitration provision clearly and unmistakably waives the employee’s ability to vindicate that right in court and the federal statute does not exclude arbitration as an appropriate forum. If no clear or unmistakable waiver exists, arbitration may be compelled if the plaintiff’s FLSA claim “depends on the disputed interpretation of a CBA provision,” which must “first go to arbitration.” Silver did not dispute that the arbitration provision lacks a clear and unmistakable waiver. Neither of the FLSA claims depend on disputed interpretations of CBA provisions. View "Jones v. SCO Silver Care Operations LLC" on Justia Law

By
In 2009, Jacquelyn Jacks bought a manufactured home from CMH Homes, Inc., on an installment plan. The purchase was financed through CMH Homes under a manufactured home retail installment contract. The contract contained an arbitration agreement, which provides that all disputes arising from, or relating to, the contract would be resolved by binding arbitration. By its terms, the agreement also covered all co-signors and guarantors, and any occupants of the manufactured Home (as intended beneficiaries of the arbitration agreement. Jacks moved into the home with her husband and their children. Five years later, the Jacks family sued CMH Homes, CMH Manufacturing, and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (not a party to this appeal). They claimed: (1) CMH negligently installed and repaired the manufactured home’s water system, which caused toxic mold to grow; (2) the manufactured home was unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the control of CMH; (3) the manufactured home was not fit for habitation. Jacks also sought to rescind her purchase of the manufactured home, along with her agreement to pay Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance the indebtedness incurred to purchase the home. The CMH defendants removed the case from state to federal court and moved to compel arbitration and stay the court proceedings. The district court granted the motion to compel as to the claims of Jacks, but denied the motion as to the remaining plaintiffs who were not parties to the installment contract. Defendants had argued that Jacks’ husband and their children were likewise bound by the arbitration agreement, even though they never signed the contract. The district court held that “the single sentence in the Arbitration Agreement generically referencing ‘any occupants of the Manufactured Home (as intended beneficiaries of this Arbitration Agreement)’ was not sufficient to make the nonsignatory plaintiffs third party beneficiaries of the Arbitration Agreement and subject to being compelled to arbitration. The district court also rejected Defendants’ contention that the nonsignatory plaintiffs were “bound to arbitrate their claims” under “the doctrine of equitable estoppel.” Defendants timely appealed the district court’s partial denial of their motion to stay and to compel arbitration. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error in the district court’s judgment and affirmed it. View "Jacks v. CMH Homes" on Justia Law

By
Temporary staffing company Real Time Staffing Services, LLC doing business as Select Staffing (Real Time) hired Garcia in 2011 as an hourly employee. Real Time then assigned Garcia to work for Pexco, LLC. As part of the hiring process with Real Time, Garcia filled out an employment application which included an arbitration agreement between Garica and Real Time. Pexco was not a signatory to the arbitration agreement. Garcia filed suit against Real Time, Pexco, and Aerotek, Inc. for violations of the Labor Code and unfair business practices pertaining to payment of wages during his assignment with Pexco. The operative complaint alleged “each and every one of the acts and omissions alleged herein was performed by, and/or attributable to, all DEFENDANTS, each acting as agents and/or employees, and/or under the direction and control of each of the other DEFENDANTS, and that said acts and failures to act were within the course and scope of said agency, employment and/or direction and control.” Each cause of action in the operative complaint was alleged against “All Defendants” and no distinction was made between Real Time or Pexco. Real Time and Pexco moved to compel individual arbitration of Garcia’s claims. The trial court granted the motion to compel arbitration. Garcia appealed the order granting Pexco’s motion to compel individual arbitration. The Court of Appeal found Garcia was equitably estopped from denying Pexco’s right to arbitrate and the agency exception applied. View "Garcia v. Pexco, LLC" on Justia Law

By
Dismissal for failure to exhaust collective bargaining agreement (CBA) grievance process was improper where it was unclear that CBA required resort to that process for claims under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Vega worked for Forest as a seasonal employee, subject to a CBA that included a mandatory four-step procedure culminating in arbitration to resolve employee grievances. Forest terminated Vega. At the time, Vega was owed compensation for 54 hours of work in the preceding two weeks. Forest did not tender a final paycheck, purportedly because it discovered that Vega lacked a valid Social Security number and it did not know how to lawfully make payment to him without such a number. The parties dispute whether Vega made efforts to initiate a grievance. The district court dismissed Vega’s suit under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 206(b), for failure to exhaust the grievance procedure. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the collective bargaining agreement did not clearly and unmistakably waive Vega’s right to pursue his FLSA claim in a judicial forum. The district court did not consider whether the CBA required Vega to resort to the grievance process when he is pursuing rights granted to him by the FLSA rather than the contract itself. View "Vega v. New Forest Home Cemetery, LLC" on Justia Law

By
Kentucky ruling that authority to bind a principal to arbitration must be explicitly stated in power of attorney violated the Federal Arbitration Act. When the patients moved into Kindred’s nursing home, their relatives used powers of attorney to complete necessary paperwork, including an agreement that any claims arising from the patient’s stay at Kindred would be resolved through binding arbitration. After the patients died, their estates filed suits alleging that Kindred’s substandard care had caused their deaths. The trial court denied Kindred’s motions to dismiss. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed, finding the arbitration agreements invalid because neither power of attorney specifically entitled the representative to enter into an arbitration agreement. Because the Kentucky Constitution declares the rights of access to the courts and trial by jury to be “sacred,” the court reasoned, an agent could deprive her principal of such rights only if expressly provided in the power of attorney. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. The Kentucky Supreme Court’s clear-statement rule violates the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2, by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment. The Act preempts any state rule that discriminates on its face against arbitration or that covertly accomplishes the same objective by disfavoring contracts that have the defining features of arbitration agreements. The FAA is concerned with both the enforcement and initial validity of arbitration agreements. View "Kindred Nursing Centers, L. P. v. Clark" on Justia Law