Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Employment Law
Sch. Comm. of Lexington v. Zagaeski
The Lexington school district superintendent dismissed Mark Zagaeski, a Lexington high school teacher, from his position for conduct unbecoming a teacher. Zagaeski timely filed an appeal from the school district’s dismissal decision, which resulted in arbitration proceedings. The arbitrator (1) concluded that the school district carried its burden to show facts amounting to conduct unbecoming a teacher but that Zagaeski’s conduct only “nominally” constituted a basis for dismissal; and (2) reinstated Zagaeski as a teacher on the basis of “the best interests of the pupils.” The superior court confirmed the arbitrator’s award. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court judge and vacated the arbitration award, holding that, under the facts of this case, the arbitrator exceeded the scope of his authority by awarding Zagaeski's reinstatement. View "Sch. Comm. of Lexington v. Zagaeski" on Justia Law
Alaska v. Public Safety Employees Association
An Alaska state trooper was discharged for having consensual sex with a domestic violence victim the morning after assisting in the arrest of the victim's husband. The Public Safety Employees Association (PSEA) filed a grievance under its collective bargaining agreement with the State. An arbitrator ordered that the trooper be reinstated with back pay after a three-day suspension, concluding that the State did not have just cause to discharge the trooper. The superior court upheld the arbitrator's order of back pay but decided that it could not enforce the ordered reinstatement because the Alaska Police Standards Council had by this point revoked the trooper's police certificate. The State appealed, arguing that the arbitrator committed gross error and that the order was unenforceable as a violation of public policy. The Supreme Court "generally will not disturb the results of a binding arbitration, even where [it] would reach a different conclusion were we to review the matter independently." The Court reasoned that because no statute, regulation, or written policy prohibited supervisors from engaging in progressive discipline of the trooper, in lieu of discharging him for his misconduct, the arbitrator's decision to impose discipline rather than uphold the termination did not violate any explicit, well-defined, and dominant public policy. Because the arbitrator's award was neither unenforceable nor grossly erroneous, the Court affirmed the superior court's decision to uphold the arbitration award in part. View "Alaska v. Public Safety Employees Association" 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
Haw. State Teachers Ass’n v. Univ. Lab. Sch.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a grievance against the University Laboratory School (ULS), alleging that the ULS refused to implement the proper salary placement for teachers as agreed to in a supplemental agreement negotiated by the HSTA and the Hawaii Board of Education. The ULS argued that the step placement chart the HSTA sought to enforce had never been agreed upon or incorporated into the agreement. The HSTA subsequently filed a grievance and a motion to compel arbitration of its grievance. The circuit court denied the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration. The intermediate court of appeals concluded that the circuit court did not err in denying HSTA’s motion, determining that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board had primary jurisdiction over the issues raised in the HSTA’s grievance and that the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration was premature. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding that because the parties agreed to leave questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, the circuit court erred in refusing to grant the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration after concluding that an arbitration agreement existed. Remanded.View "Haw. State Teachers Ass’n v. Univ. Lab. Sch." on Justia Law
Am. Bank Holdings, Inc. v. Kavanaugh
Respondents filed a complaint for accounting against Petitioner, their employer, after a dispute over the terms of their employment agreement. In response, Petitioner filed a petition to compel arbitration, asserting that, because Respondents’ claims arose out of their employment agreements, the circuit court was required to compel arbitration under an arbitration clause contained in the employment agreement. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s petition. The intermediate appellate court dismissed Petitioner's appeal, concluding that the denial of Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration did not constitute a final judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that an order denying a request to compel arbitration filed in an existing action is not a final judgment because the denial of the petition does not put the parties out of court or otherwise terminate the proceedings and does not deny the party requesting arbitration the means of further prosecuting or defending rights and interests in the subject matter of the proceeding. View "Am. Bank Holdings, Inc. v. Kavanaugh" on Justia Law
Roberts v. Lame Deer Sch. Dist. No. 6
Plaintiff, a former high school instructor, was terminated from her employment for insubordination. Plaintiff appealed her termination to binding arbitration pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator denied Plaintiff's grievance. The district court upheld the arbitration award, concluding that the arbitrator had not exceeded his powers and that Plaintiff had failed to meet her burden of proving that a ground for vacating, correcting, or modifying the award existed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration award.View "Roberts v. Lame Deer Sch. Dist. No. 6" on Justia 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
Hill v. Garda CL Northwest. Inc.
Petitioners Lawrence Hill, Adam Wise, and Robert Miller represented a class of employees who worked for an armored car company Garda CL Northwest, Inc. They brought a wage and hour suit against the company, citing violations of the Washington Industrial Welfare Act, and the Washington Minimum Wage Act. After several months of litigation, Garda moved to compel arbitration under the terms of a labor agreement. The trial court granted the motion, but ruled that the employees could arbitrate as a class. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order to compel arbitration, but that the employees must arbitrate individually notwithstanding the class certification. Both sides appealed the appellate court decision. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the arbitration clause was unconscionable, and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Hill v. Garda CL Northwest. Inc." on Justia Law
Schuiling v. Harris
In 2007, Schuiling hired Harris as his full-time, live-in housecleaner. Harris signed an arbitration agreement, a one-page, pre-printed form prepared for Schuling’s auto business, stating that disputes “shall be resolved exclusively by arbitration administered by the National Arbitration Forum under its code of procedure then in effect.” In 2011, Harris sued Schuiling, alleging multiple torts, statutory violations, and breach of contract. Schuiling moved to enforce arbitration under Code § 8.01-581.02(A), stating that the National Arbitration Forum was no longer available and requesting the court to appoint a substitute arbitrator under Code § 8.01-581.03. Harris argued that unavailability of the named arbitrator, coupled with the agreement’s failure to provide for a substitute arbitrator, rendered the agreement unenforceable. The circuit court agreed with Harris and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed. Relying on the intention of the parties as expressed in the language of the agreement, the court concluded that NAF’s designation as arbitrator was not integral and was severable in order to give effect to the arbitration requirement, the sole purpose of the agreement.View "Schuiling v. Harris" on Justia Law