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Oliveira is a driver for a trucking company, under an agreement that calls him an independent contractor and contains a mandatory arbitration provision. Oliveira filed a class action alleging that the company denies its drivers lawful wages. The company invoked the Federal Arbitration Act, arguing that questions regarding arbitrability should be resolved by the arbitrator. The First Circuit and Supreme Court agreed that a court should determine whether the Act's section 1 exclusion applies before ordering arbitration. A court’s authority to compel arbitration under the Act does not extend to all private contracts. Section 2 provides that the Act applies only when the agreement is “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” Section 1 provides that “nothing” in the Act “shall apply” to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The sequencing is significant. A “delegation clause,” giving the arbitrator authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability is merely a specialized type of arbitration agreement and is enforceable under sections 3 and 4 only if it appears in a contract consistent with section 2 that does not trigger section 1’s exception. Because “contract of employment” refers to any agreement to perform work, Oliveira’s contract falls within that exception. At the time of the Act’s 1925 adoption, the phrase “contract of employment” was not a term of art; dictionaries treated “employment” as generally synonymous with “work," not requiring a formal employer-employee relationship. Congress used the term “contracts of employment” broadly. View "New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of SquareTrade's motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action seeking to hold SquareTrade accountable for alleged violations of consumer protection laws. The court agreed with the district court and held that the arbitration provision did not become part of the contract because plaintiff did not have reasonable notice of and manifest his assent to it. In this case, the consumer was presented with several documents including the Pre-Sale T&C, the body of the subsequent email, and the Post-Sale T&C, none of them specifically identified as the "Service Contract" governing the purchase, and all containing different sets of terms. Furthermore, the prior course of dealing between the parties did not convince the court that plaintiff was on inquiry notice of the arbitration provision. View "Starke v. SquareTrade, Inc." on Justia Law

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Archer sued Schein, alleging violations of federal and state antitrust law and seeking both money damages and injunctive relief. The contract between the parties provided for arbitration of any dispute arising under or related to the agreement, except for actions seeking injunctive relief. Schein argued that because the rules governing the contract provide that arbitrators have the power to resolve arbitrability questions, an arbitrator—not the court—should decide whether the arbitration agreement applied. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Schein’s motion to compel arbitration. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, arbitration is a matter of contract. Courts must enforce arbitration contracts according to their terms. The parties may agree to have an arbitrator decide not only the merits of a particular dispute but also “gateway” questions of “arbitrability.” When the parties’ contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, a court may not override the contract, even if the court thinks that the arbitrability claim is wholly groundless. The Court declined “to redesign the Act” and noted that the Act contains no “wholly groundless” exception. Arbitrators are capable of efficiently disposing of frivolous cases and deterring frivolous motions; such motions do not appear to have caused a substantial problem in Circuits that have not recognized a “wholly groundless” exception. The Fifth Circuit may address whether this contract actually delegated the arbitrability question to an arbitrator on remand. View "Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

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The employer, Luxor Cabs, obtained workers' compensation insurance through AUCRA under an EquityComp program. The EquityComp workers’ compensation insurance program has garnered nationwide attention from administrative agencies and judicial tribunals. In 2016, the California Insurance Commissioner issued an administrative decision concluding that the EquityComp program violated state insurance laws and that the reinsurance participation agreement (RPA) between AUCRA and the insured employer, in that case, was void as a matter of law. In 2018, the Fourth Appellate District came to a similar decision in a case essentially identical to this one involving arbitrability under an RPA. Luxor, unhappy with AUCRA's handling of claims, filed suit. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of AUCRA’s motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of an RPA between an employer, Luxor Cabs, and AUCRA. The trial court properly rejected an argument that the validity of the arbitration clause should, itself, have been referred to arbitration in accordance with the RPA’s “delegation clause.” Both the delegation clause and the arbitration provision in the RPA were void and unenforceable because they each separately constituted an “endorsement” to the Policy which was not properly vetted and approved as required by Insurance Code section 11658. View "Luxor Cabs, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Jose Robles, Christopher Rymel, and David Hagins sued defendant Save Mart Supermarkets, Inc., alleging various state law statutory employment claims. After successfully moving to sever, Save Mart moved to compel arbitration as to each plaintiff. The motions were heard together, and the trial court denied the motions by substantively identical orders. Save Mart appealed in each case. The original complaint alleged each plaintiff had been employed as an order selector at Save Mart’s Roseville Distribution Center (Rymel was also a forklift driver). Each alleged an industrial injury and torts stemming from their injuries under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Hagins also alleged he was retaliated against after he reported a workplace safety hazard, purportedly a whistleblower violation under Labor Code section 1102.5. Save Mart alleged plaintiffs were members of Teamsters Local 150 and were employed by Save Mart under a CBA that covered the pleaded disputes. Save Mart argued that resolving the disputes would require interpretation of the CBA or would be “substantially dependent” on such interpretation, that the claims were “inextricably intertwined” with parts of the CBA, and that judicial resolution of them would infringe on the arbitration process set forth in the CBA. Plaintiffs opposed the motions, arguing the pleaded claims did not fall within the scope of the CBA. The Court of Appeal concurred plaintiffs' claims did not require an interpretation of the CBA, and that their claims fell outside the scope of the CBA: "Save Mart explains that disputes about the employee termination and production norm provisions of the CBA are intended to be resolved through grievances. As an abstract proposition we do not disagree. But ...plaintiffs retain an independent (nonnegotiable) state law right to be free of discipline caused by protected activity, such as whistleblowing (Hagins) or exercising his FEHA rights (all plaintiffs)." View "Rymel v. Save Mart Supermarkets" on Justia Law

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Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a) governs how to calculate the Federal Arbitration Act's three-month filing deadline. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition to vacate an arbitral award because the petition was filed one day late. The panel clarified how to perform the Rule 6(a) calculation and held that the petition to vacate was untimely. View "Stevens v. Jiffy Lube International" on Justia Law

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Howard alleges that Kaggle’s CEO, Goldbloom, three other members of its board of directors and three limited partnerships (the VC defendants)) abused their corporate power and breached their fiduciary duty to him by wrongfully diluting his interest in Kaggle’s stock, transferring its value to themselves through a self-dealing transaction. The defendants sought to compel arbitration of the claims and to stay proceedings, claiming that Howard had signed four separate agreements in which he consented to arbitrate disputes related to Kaggle. Three of the agreements were signed in 2011, when Howard became employed by Kaggle, and the fourth was a separation agreement executed in 2013, after Howard’s employment ended. The trial court denied the petition, concluding that the arbitration clauses in the four agreements “go to the terms and interpretation of those agreements and matters released by them. Those employment-related agreements preceded by years the issues pled in the complaint, which do not regard Howard’s employment.” The court of appeal affirmed. This dispute is based on obligations owed to minority shareholders in the company, obligations that are independent of Howard’s employment relationship and hence not subject to arbitration even under a broad understanding of the arbitration clause. View "Howard v. Goldbloom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration of a dispute over which of two orders approving a transfer of a payee’s structured-settlement-payment rights to another under the Structured Settlement Protection Act, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 141.004, controlled, holding that the court of appeals erred in determining that the dispute was one that could not be arbitrated. Specifically, the court of appeals concluded that the dispute over which order controlled was not an arbitrable issue even where an arbitration agreement included in the transfer agreement assigned issues of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the parties agreed to have the arbitrator decide issues of arbitrability and because the courts below did not question the validity of the parties’ arbitration clause, this dispute must be sent to arbitration for the arbitrator to at least decide arbitrability. View "RSL Funding, LLC v. Newsome" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying David Murray’s petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the State Employee Relations Board’s (SERB) dismissal of Murray’s unfair labor practice charges against the City of Columbus and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) as untimely, holding that the SERB did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed Murray’s unfair labor practice charges. After being fired from his job as a police officer, Murray sought to regain his employment through arbitration involving the City and his union, the FOP. Dissatisfied with the way the arbitration was handled, Murray brought two unfair labor practice charges against the City and the FOP. SERB dismissed all of the charges, concluding that they had been filed outside the ninety-day statute of limitations applicable to each charge. Murray then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to compel that the charges be set for a hearing. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the SERB correctly dismissed the charges as untimely. View "State ex rel. Murray v. State Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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At issue was the circuit court’s role in determining the proper forum of dispute resolution when a subsequent contract, if enforceable, does not contain an arbitration clause that is present in an initial contract. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the non-final order of the circuit court denying a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the initial agreement in this case, as well as the circuit court’s granting of a motion for declaratory judgment that the subsequent agreement was a valid contract, holding that, if valid, the subsequent agreement released certain parties from the agreement to arbitrate contained in the initial agreement, and the cause must be remanded to determine whether the subsequent agreement was a valid contract. The circuit court concluded that even though the initial agreement required arbitration, it was superseded by the subsequent agreement, which did not require the parties to submit to arbitration. The court of appeals concluded that arbitration was required pursuant to the initial agreement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the determination of arbitrability must be decided by the circuit court rather than an arbitrator and that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the subsequent agreement was a valid contract. View "Midwest Neurosciences Associates, LLC v. Great Lakes Neurosurgical Associates, LLC" on Justia Law