Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Rights
Raymond James Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Fenyk
Appellant was associated with Appellee, Raymond James Financial Services, as a securities broker. After Appellee decided to terminate Appellant’s contract, Appellant brought an arbitration proceeding before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, alleging that he had been fired because of his sexual orientation and his status as a recovering alcoholic, in violation of Vermont law. After granting the parties’ request that Florida law be applied to the proceedings, an arbitration panel awarded Appellant $600,000 in back pay on his claim of discrimination based on disability. The district court vacated the award, concluding that the arbitrators lacked authority to grant the remedy because Appellant brought no claims under Florida law. The First Circuit reversed, holding that although the arbitration decision may have been incorrect as a matter of law, the arbitrators’ decision to impose liability on Appellee under Florida law did not willfully flout the governing law or otherwise exceed the bounds of the arbitrators’ authority to resolve the parties’ dispute. Remanded for entry of an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Raymond James Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Fenyk" on Justia Law
Rent-A-Center, Inc. v. Iowa Civil Rights Comm’n
As a condition of her employment, Employee signed an agreement to arbitrate claims with Employer. Employee later filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), alleging that Employer had discriminated against her because of her pregnancy. The ICRC subsequently filed a statement of charges with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA). Employer filed a motion to dismiss the ICRC’s charges or, in the alternative, compel arbitration. The DIA denied Employer’s motion on the ground that ICRC was not a party to the arbitration agreement and, consequently, not bound by it. On judicial review, the district court remanded instructions for the ICRC to dismiss the matter pending arbitration by the parties, concluding that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted state law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding the FAA did not require arbitration of this proceeding because it was brought by an entity that was not bound to arbitrate under generally applicable principles of contract law, where the ICRC was not a party to the agreement and its interest was not derivative of Employee’s. View "Rent-A-Center, Inc. v. Iowa Civil Rights Comm’n" on Justia Law
Weeks v. 735 Putnam Pike Operations, LLC
Plaintiff, a member of a union, filed a complaint against Defendant, her former employer, alleging that during her employment she was subjected to a hostile work environment on account of her race and color and that she was wrongfully terminated. Defendant filed a motion to stay proceedings, arguing that the proper forum for resolution of Plaintiff’s claims was binding arbitration as required by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the union and Defendant. A hearing justice granted Defendant’s motion to stay and ordered that the matter be resolved through arbitration. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the hearing justice’s decision was in error because the CBA’s arbitration provision did not preclude her from asserting her statutorily created rights under the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (RICRA) and Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) in a judicial forum. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the CBA’s general arbitration provision, which contained no specific reference to the state anti-discrimination statutes at issue, did not constitute a clear and unmistakable waiver of Plaintiff’s right to a judicial forum in which to litigate her claims arising under the RICRA and the FEPA. Remanded.View "Weeks v. 735 Putnam Pike Operations, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Civil Rights, Employment Law
New v. GameStop, Inc.
In 2009, GameStop, Inc., which operated retail stores that sold video games and video gaming software, hired Petitioner as an assistant manager. When she began her employment, Petitioner received a store associate handbook. In a document included with the handbook was an arbitration agreement. Petitioner signed and dated an acknowledgment of the handbook and rules including arbitration. In 2011, Petitioner sued GameStop and some of its managers (collectively, GameStop) for wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other causes of action. The circuit court dismissed the complaint pending Petitioner's submission of her claims to final and binding arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that she did not enter into a valid arbitration with GameStop or, in the alternative, the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner and GameStop entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate Petitioner's claims; and (2) the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. View "New v. GameStop, Inc." on Justia Law
State v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 391
Employee was discharged from his employment for allegedly engaging in sexual harassment. Employee's union filed a grievance against Employer, and the parties submitted the controversy to arbitration. The arbitrator reduced the dismissal to a one year suspension without pay, finding the dismissal was without just cause. Employer filed an application to vacate the arbitral award, claiming that enforcement of the award violated public policy. The trial court granted the application and vacated the arbitrator's award on public policy grounds. The appellate court affirmed, holding that the award violated the public policy against workplace sexual harassment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy against sexual harassment in the workplace required nothing less than Employee's termination. View "State v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 391" on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Employment Law
Benes v. A.B. Data, Ltd.
After working at the company for four months, Benes charged his employer with sex discrimination. The EEOC arranged for mediation in which, after an initial joint session, the parties separated and a go-between relayed offers. Upon receiving a settlement proposal that he thought too low, Benes stormed into the room used by his employer’s representatives and said loudly: “You can take your proposal and shove it up your ass and fire me and I’ll see you in court.” The firm fired him. He filed suit under the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–3(a), abandoning his claim of sex discrimination. A magistrate judge granted the employer summary judgment, finding that Benes had been fired for misconduct during the mediation, not for making or supporting a charge of discrimination. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that section 2000e–3(a) does not establish a privilege to misbehave in mediation, but only bans retaliation “because [a person] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.” View "Benes v. A.B. Data, Ltd." on Justia Law
Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Front
The cases underlying these consolidated appeals involved the purchase of an automobile. Plaintiffs purchased vehicles and signed retail installment contracts with three separate dealers. The dealers assigned their rights in the contract and vehicles to Credit Acceptance Corporation, who financed the purchases. All of the contracts contained arbitration clauses. Plaintiffs later commenced civil actions against Credit Acceptance in circuit court, alleging, inter alia, violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection act (WVCCPA). Credit Acceptance filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss, which the circuit court denied, finding that the arbitration agreements were unconscionable based upon the unavailability of some of the arbitration forums named therein and because Plaintiffs in the agreements waived their respective rights to a jury trial. The Supreme Court reversed in both of the cases, holding that because one of the arbitration forums named in the arbitration agreements remained available to arbitrate the parties' disputes, and because an arbitration agreement is not unenforceable solely because a party to the contract waives her right to a jury trial, the causes must be remanded for entry of orders compelling arbitration. View "Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Front" on Justia Law
Ensey v. Mini Mart, Inc.
After Employee failed to ask a shopper for a loyalty card per Employer's policy, Employee was fired. Employee brought a wrongful discharge claim against Employer under Montana's Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act (WDEA). Employee accepted Employer's offer to arbitrate the dispute because she said Mont. Code Ann. 39-915 would force her to pay Employer's attorney fees if she declined the offer and later lost at trial. Employee then successfully moved to amend her complaint to add destruction of evidence and declaratory judgment claims, alleging, inter alia, that section 39-2-915 was unconstitutional. The district court subsequently dismissed Employee's amended complaint, concluding that it had lost jurisdiction over Employee's claim once she accepted the offer to arbitrate. The court also ruled that 39-2-915 was constitutional. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the dismissal of Employee's amended complaint, as the court lost its ability to consider Employee's claim once she agreed to arbitration; and (2) set aside the district court's determination of Employee's constitutional claim, as the court lost its authority to act further once Employee agreed to arbitrate. View "Ensey v. Mini Mart, Inc." on Justia Law
Parisi v. Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Goldman Sachs appealed from an order of the district court denying their motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's claims of gender discrimination. Plaintiff and others alleged that Goldman Sachs engaged in a continuing pattern and practice of discrimination based on sex against female employees in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law, Administrative Code of the City of New York 8-107 et seq. On appeal, plaintiff contended that the arbitration clause in her agreement must be invalidated because arbitration would preclude her from vindicating a statutory right. The court disagreed and held that the district court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration where plaintiff had no substantive statutory right to pursue a pattern-or-practice claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "Parisi v. Goldman, Sachs & Co." on Justia Law
Osguthorpe v. Wolf Mountain Resorts, L.C.
At issue in this case were two agreements: a ground lease agreement between ASC Utah, Inc. (ASCU) and Wolf Mountain Resorts, and a specifically planned area (SPA) development agreement, which had thirty-six signatories, including ASCU, Wolf Mountain, the D.A. Osguthorpe Family Partnership (Osguthorpe). ASCU and Wolf Mountain began litigating claims involving both the ground lease and the SPA agreement. Shortly thereafter, Osguthorpe sued ASCU and Wolf Mountain, alleging that each party had breached a land-lease agreement distinct from the ground lease or the SPA agreement. The district court consolidated Osguthorpe's separate actions into ASCU's litigation. Osguthorpe later moved to compel arbitration on all the claims related to the SPA agreement, including the claims between ASCU and Wolf Mountain, to which Osguthrope was not a party. The district court denied Osguthrope's motion. Osguthrope withdrew its SPA claims from the case, leaving for appeal only Osguthrope's motion to compel arbitration of the SPA claims between ASCU and Wolf Mountain. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the disputes for which Osguthrope sought to compel arbitration were not subject to the SPA agreement's arbitration provision; and (2) furthermore, as a non-party to the disputes, Osguthrope had no contractual right to compel their arbitration. View "Osguthorpe v. Wolf Mountain Resorts, L.C." on Justia Law