Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Rocha v. U-Haul Co. of Cal.
Appellants (the brothers) appealed following a judgment affirming an arbitration award that resolves an employment dispute between the brothers, their former employer, defendant and respondent U-Haul Co. of California (U-Haul), and their former manager at U-Haul and Respondent. On appeal, the brothers challenge the court’s order compelling their dispute to arbitration, arguing that the arbitration agreement they signed with U-Haul is unconscionable and thus unenforceable. The Second Appellate District affirmed the order compelling arbitration. The brothers also challenged the court’s order, issued before the court ordered the matter to arbitration, denying them leave to amend their complaint. The proposed amendment includes a Labor Code cause of action against Sandusky for unpaid wages regarding work the brothers allegedly performed at Respondent’s residence solely for his personal benefit. The court saw no basis for which the trial court could deny the brothers leave to assert such a claim. The brothers’ proposed amendment also includes a claim for relief under California’s Private Attorney General Act (the PAGA) based on the Labor Code violations by U-Haul and/or Respondent reflected in the proposed amended complaint. But the brothers cannot establish PAGA standing to bring a claim based on Labor Code violations by U-Haul already alleged in the operative complaint, because the arbitrator found no such violations occurred, and that finding has issue preclusive effect. The arbitrator’s finding does not affect the brothers’ ability to establish PAGA standing based on the proposed alleged Labor Code violation by Respondent involving unpaid wages; however, the court saw no other fatal deficiencies in the proposed PAGA claim against Respondent. View "Rocha v. U-Haul Co. of Cal." on Justia Law
United Natural Foods, Inc. v. Teamsters Local 414
A collective bargaining agreement (CBA), covered employees at United’s Indiana distribution center, prohibiting strikes and lock-outs during the life of the agreement. Negotiations over a successor agreement were ongoing when the existing agreement expired in September 2019. The agreement provided: So long as negations are ongoing, all terms and provisions of the existing CBA will continue to apply. However, “[i]n the event of a strike, the provisions of this section do not apply.” Bargaining over a new agreement came to a standstill on September 20. On December 12, Local 414 went on strike with a picket line at the Indiana facility. On December 17, Local 414 began additional picketing at United’s Minnesota and Wisconsin distribution centers. Workers there walked off the job. On December 18, Local 414 ended the strike and ceased picketing at the other sites. In July 2020, Local 414 engaged in another strike in Indiana.United filed suit under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, alleging that the strikes violated the CBA’s no-strike provisions. Local 414 moved to compel arbitration of the claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the claims were not subject to arbitration. The arbitration procedure is focused exclusively on employee-initiated grievances and does not apply to employer-initiated grievances. The arbitration clause is not reasonably susceptible to an interpretation that includes an employer-initiated dispute regarding the CBA’s terms. View "United Natural Foods, Inc. v. Teamsters Local 414" on Justia Law
Murrey v. Superior Court
Casandra Murrey, a single, 46-year-old female, worked for General Electric Company (GE) as a product sales specialist for ultrasound equipment. The complaint alleged GE hired Murrey in early 2018 and she was a “top performer.” In 2019, GE hired Joseph Gorczyca, III. In January 2020, he became Murrey’s direct supervisor, and he engaged in continuous sexual harassment in the workplace with Murrey and others. She alleged GE “never properly completed an immediate [n]or appropriate investigation or took any . . . corrective action. Instead, [GE] later informed [her] that Gorczyca was ‘no longer with the company.’” Thereafter, GE “commenced an illegal pattern of retaliatory behavior against Murrey because [she] engage[ed] in protective activity” that included “denying appropriate support for [her] sales position” and refusing to promote her. Eight months after Murrey filed the complaint, GE moved to compel arbitration. GE sent all new hires a “welcome e-mail” to the new hire’s personal e-mail address that contained a link to GE’s electronic onboarding system/portal. Each document was assigned a separate task and the new hire signed employment-related agreements using his or her electronic signature. Based on this process and GE’s other security measures, GE’s lead HR specialist Michelle Thayer concluded Murrey’s electronic signature on an Acknowledgment was made by Murrey that Murrey assented to an included arbitration in the onboarding materials. The trial court granted the motion to compel arbitration, concluding:(1) GE met its burden of showing the arbitration agreement covered Murrey’s claims; (2) all of Murrey’s causes of action arose out of or were connected with her employment; and (3) Murrey met her burden showing procedural unconscionability because it was a contract of adhesion; but (5) Murrey failed to show a sufficient degree of substantive unconscionability to render the agreement unenforceable. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the arbitration agreement in this case contained a high degree of procedural unconscionability. "When we consider the procedural and substantively unconscionable provisions together, they indicate a concerted effort to impose on an employee a forum with distinct advantages for the employer." The Court issued a writ of mandate on the trial court to vacate the order compelling arbitration, and to enter a new order denying the motion. View "Murrey v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Meridian Management Services, LLC
Plaintiff signed an arbitration contract with an employer called Intelex Enterprises, LLC. While working for Intelex, Plaintiff also worked for other firms (Other Firms). These Other Firms were legally separate from Intelex but functionally related to it. The Other Firms did not contract for arbitration with Plaintiff. After termination, Plaintiff sued the Other Firms but not Intelex: Intelex has never been a party to the case. The Other Firms moved to compel arbitration based on Plaintiff’s agreement with Intelex. The trial court denied the Other Firms’ motion to enforce a contract they had not signed. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court held that the Other Firms cannot equitably estop Defendant because they do not show she is trying to profit from some unfair action. They have no proof of agency. And they are not third-party beneficiaries of Intelex’s contract. The court explained that the Other Firms point to six places in the record they say show agency, but these materials do not measure up. The citation to Plaintiff’s complaint spotlights text that omits Intelex and cannot show agency. A different citation is to their attorney’s declaration recounting irrelevant procedural history. Other citations refer to Plaintiff’s admission that she worked for both Intelex and the Other Firms. This admission does not establish agency. View "Hernandez v. Meridian Management Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Darby v. Sisyphian, LLC
Plaintiff sued Sisyphian for (1) failure to pay minimum wage, (2) failure to pay overtime wages, (3) failure to pay wages for missed meal periods, (4) failure to pay wages for missed rest breaks, (5) waiting time penalties (6) failure to provide accurate wage statements and (7) unfair competition. In reliance on the arbitration clause in the Entertainment Agreement, the trial court granted Sisyphian’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s claims. The arbitrator concluded that Plaintiff’s complaint contained a viable prayer for attorney fees for the claims on which she prevailed. Plaintiff filed a petition to confirm the final arbitration award. Following the entry of judgment for Plaintiff in the amount of $105,109.75, Sisyphian appealed. Sisyphian argued that the trial court erred in confirming the final arbitration award because, in reconsidering its initial attorney fees order, the arbitrator exceeded his powers The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that because Plaintiff’s petition to confirm was procedurally proper because no party sought dismissal of Plaintiff’s petition, and because Sisyphian’s filings seeking to vacate or correct the arbitration award were not timely filed, the trial court, in this case, was obligated to confirm the final arbitration award. Further, because Sisyphian forfeited its right to seek to vacate or correct the final arbitration award before the trial court, the court may not consider its arguments to do so on appeal. View "Darby v. Sisyphian, LLC" on Justia Law
Howard Center v. AFSCME Local 1674, et al.
Employer Howard Center appealed a trial court order that confirmed an arbitration award in favor of grievant Daniel Peyser and AFSCME Local 1674. In May 2019, employer expressed concern over grievant’s billing practices, specifically, his submission of billing paperwork in May for services provided in April. Employer told grievant that it was considering disciplining him for “dishonesty and unethical action” concerning the backdated bills. Grievant brought two billing notes from patient records to show that other employees engaged in the same billing practices. Employer did not reprimand grievant for the billing practices. In August 2019, however, employer informed grievant that he breached employer’s confidentiality policy by sharing the billing notes with his union representative at the June meeting. Employer issued a written reprimand to grievant. The reprimand stated that sharing client records without redacting confidential information violated protocols and state and federal regulations, and that grievant knew or should have known of these standards. Employer also explained that it was required to report the breach to state and federal authorities and to those individuals whose records were disclosed. Grievant filed a grievance under the terms of his collective-bargaining agreement, arguing in part that employer lacked just cause to discipline him. In an October 2020 decision, the arbitrator sustained the grievance. Employer then filed an action in the civil division seeking to modify or vacate the arbitrator’s award, arguing in relevant part that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law in sustaining the grievance. Employer asked the Vermont Supreme Court to adopt “manifest disregard” of the law as a basis for setting aside the arbitration award and to conclude that the arbitrator violated that standard here. The Supreme Court did not decide whether to adopt the manifest-disregard standard because, assuming arguendo it applied, employer failed to show that its requirements were satisfied. The Court therefore affirmed. View "Howard Center v. AFSCME Local 1674, et al." on Justia Law
Iyere v. Wise Auto Group
Three plaintiffs began working for Wise on separate dates. Each purportedly signed an arbitration agreement, “governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and the California Arbitration Act. It bans class arbitration and waives the employees’ right to join class litigation, noting that the employee “may wish to consult with an attorney.” An acknowledgment indicates that the employee has read the agreement and understands that he can choose not to sign and still be employed by Wise, without retaliation. Wise fired the plaintiffs. They filed a joint complaint.Wise moved to compel each plaintiff to submit to individual arbitration. Wise submitted a declaration from its HR director, authenticating the documents, bearing the handwritten signature of each plaintiff. Each plaintiff alleged that, on his first day of work, he was handed a stack of documents and was not given any time to review them nor given a copy of the documents, adding “I do not recall ever reading or signing any" Binding Arbitration Agreement ... I do not know how my signature was placed on [either document].”The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The court of appeal reversed. The plaintiffs offered no admissible evidence creating a dispute as to the authenticity of their physical signatures and did not prove that the agreement was unconscionable. The FAA does not prescribe substantive rules of law for resolving disputes. It does not displace the substantive law of California. View "Iyere v. Wise Auto Group" on Justia Law
Desert Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Miller
Plaintiff Desert Regional Medical Center, Inc. (DRMC) appealed trial court orders denying DRMC’s first amended petitions to compel nurses Leah Miller, Lynn Fontana, and Renita Romero (Respondents) to arbitrate their labor claims alleging rest and meal break violations by DRMC. DRMC contended the trial court erred by denying its petitions to compel arbitration and failing to stay Respondents’ individual claims until after completion of arbitration of a separate proceeding initiated by Respondents’ union (the California Nurses Association) on behalf of all nurses employed by DRMC in California. DRMC argued the trial court erred in denying DRMC’s petitions to compel arbitration based on a finding DRMC waived the right to arbitrate. DRMC argued the issue of waiver had to be determined by the arbitrator, not the trial court, and, even if the court has jurisdiction to decide waiver, there was insufficient evidence to support its finding of waiver. DRMC further contended Respondents were estopped from arguing waiver because Respondents’ Union was responsible for DRMC’s delay in petitioning to compel arbitration and agreed, in a separate proceeding, to arbitrate the Union’s group grievance. After review, the Court of Appeal rejected DRMC’s contentions and affirmed the order denying DRMC’s amended petitions to compel arbitration and request for a stay. View "Desert Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Miller" on Justia Law
Vaughn v. Tesla, Inc.
The plaintiffs first worked for Tesla through staffing agencies. When Tesla offered them employment, effective August 2, 2017, most of the plaintiffs electronically signed offer letters, including an arbitration provision, “any and all disputes, claims, or causes of action, in law or equity, arising from or relating to your employment, or the termination of your employment, will be resolved, to the fullest extent permitted by law by final, binding and confidential arbitration.” A complaint under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Gov. Code 12900) alleged that the plaintiff and other Black workers “suffered severe and pervasive harassment.”The trial court partially granted Tesla's motion to compel arbitration, reasoning that the arbitration clauses required the plaintiffs to arbitrate disputes that arose on or after 8/2/17 while claims based on alleged wrongs before 8/2/17 are not within the scope of the agreements. The trial court denied the motion to the extent that the plaintiffs sought a public injunction. The court of appeal affirmed. The court properly declined to mandate arbitration of the request for a public injunction. Injunctions sought under FEHA may be considered “public injunctions.” The Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1), as interpreted by the Supreme Court in 2022 (Viking River) does not preempt the California rule prohibiting waiver of the right to seek such injunctions. View "Vaughn v. Tesla, Inc." on Justia Law
City of Yonkers v. Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the appellate division reversing Supreme Court's order granting the petition filed by the City of Yorkers pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 75 to permanently stay arbitration of the underlying labor dispute, holding that grievances like the present one are arbitrable so long as no public policy, statutory, or constitutional provisions prohibit them and they are reasonably related to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).The underlying dispute between City of Yonkers and its firefighters concerned whether Yonkers must make certain types of payments to firefighters who were permanently disabled for work-related injuries and who qualified for benefits under N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law 207-a(2). Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO (the Union) filed a grievance alleging that Yonkers violated the CBA and then served a demand for arbitration. Yonkers responded by filing a petition to permanently stay arbitration. Supreme Court granted the petition. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that this grievance was arbitrable. View "City of Yonkers v. Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO" on Justia Law