Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries
Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law
Gavriiloglou v. Prime Healthcare Management
Plaintiff-appellant Eleni Gavriiloglou brought this action against her former employer and its alleged alter egos. She asserted, among other things: (1) individual claims for damages based on Labor Code violations; and (2) a representative claim for civil penalties for Labor Code violations under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Gavriiloglou had signed an arbitration agreement, so the trial court compelled her to arbitrate her non-PAGA claims and stayed her PAGA claim while she did. The arbitrator found that the alleged Labor Code violations had not occurred. The trial court then granted judgment on the pleadings against Gavriiloglou on her PAGA claim, ruling that the arbitrator’s findings established that she was not an “aggrieved employee” within the meaning of PAGA, and therefore that she lacked standing to bring a PAGA claim. Gavriiloglou appealed, contending: (1) the trial court erred by denying her petition to vacate the arbitration award; and (2) the trial court erred by ruling that the arbitration award barred her PAGA claim. The Court of Appeal found that the trial court properly denied the motion to vacate the arbitration award. However, the Court also held that the arbitration did not bar the PAGA claim because Gavriiloglou was acting in different capacities and asserting different rights. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Gavriiloglou v. Prime Healthcare Management" on Justia Law
Lopez v. Cintas
Plaintiff was a local delivery driver for Cintas Corporation. That means he picked up items from a Houston warehouse (items shipped from out of state) and delivered them to local customers. Lopez does not want to arbitrate his claims against Cintas. He says that he is exempt from doing so because he belongs to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” under Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act. The Fifth Circuit partially affirmed the district court’s ruling finding that Plaintiff is not a “transportation worker” under Section 1 of the FAA. However, because Plaintiff's unconscionability challenge to his employment agreement must be decided in arbitration, the court vacated and remanded for that claim to be dismissed without prejudice to be considered in arbitration in the first instance. The court explained that unlike either seamen or railroad employees, the local delivery drivers here have a more customer-facing role, which further underscores that this class does not fall within Section 1’s ambit. As a result, the transportation-worker exemption does not apply to this class of local delivery drivers. Further, because unconscionability under Texas law is a challenge to the validity, not the existence, of a contract, that challenge must be resolved by an arbitrator. Thus, the court held that the district court erred in resolving the merits of Plaintiff’s unconscionability claim. View "Lopez v. Cintas" on Justia Law
Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC
Crozer owns healthcare companies that operate as wholly owned subsidiaries: Prospect, employs professionals working at hospitals; CCMC, is a hospital and hired Abdurahman as an emergency medical resident. Abdurahman signed new-hire paperwork, including an at-will employment agreement with Crozer and an arbitration agreement with Prospect. Several weeks later, Abdurahman signed a residency agreement with CCMC. Dr. Jacobs was an employee of Prospect, working as CCMC’s Director of Toxicology and supervised Abdurahman. Abdurahman alleged that Jacobs sexually harassed her; Jacobs claimed the opposite and informed CCMC Human Resources that Abdurahman had assaulted her. The dispute escalated until Abdurahman was fired.Abdurahman filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the EEOC, alleging defamation and discrimination under Title VII, Title IX, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She subsequently filed suit against CCMC and Jacobs. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed. Abdurahman signed an arbitration agreement with Prospect, not CCMC. That agreement cannot stretch to govern Abdurahman’s employment with CCMC. The court noted that the corporations are sophisticated entities that drafted the forms. View "Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law
Greenhouse Holdings, LLC v. International Union of Painters
The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award to the extent that it applied to Greenhouse Holdings, LLC (Greenhouse), holding that it was disputed whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate, and therefore, the evidence should be weighed by the district court in the first instance.At issue was whether an arbitrator has the authority to bind someone who hasn't signed the underlying arbitration agreement to an arbitration award. A Union filed a grievance against "Clearview Glass," alleging that it violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement. An arbitrator concluded that Greenhouse was bound by an in violation of the CBA. The district court vacated the award to the extent it applied to Greenhouse because it was unclear whether Greenhouse ever assented to the CBA. The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that remand was required for the district court to first decide whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate the threshold arbitrability question. View "Greenhouse Holdings, LLC v. International Union of Painters" on Justia Law
Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc.
Cisco Systems, Inc. hired “John Doe” in September 2015 to work as an engineer. Doe was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Under the agreement, Cisco and Doe had to arbitrate “all disputes or claims arising from or relating to” Doe’s employment, including claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Several years after signing the agreement, Doe filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Cisco discriminated against him because of ancestry or race. He reported that two supervisors denied him opportunities and disparaged him because, under the traditional caste system of India, he was from the lowest caste and they are from the highest. Doe also accused Cisco of retaliating when he complained about being treated unfavorably because of his caste. The Department notified Cisco of Doe’s complaint, investigated it, and decided it had merit. Attempts at informal resolution were unsuccessful. The Department then filed a lawsuit against Cisco and the two supervisors. The Department alleged five causes of action alleging multiple violations of FEHA, and sought a permanent injunction preventing Cisco from committing further violations, and mandatory injunctive relief requiring Cisco to institute policies to prevent employment discrimination. The complaint also requested an order that Cisco compensate Doe for past and future economic losses. Cisco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement Doe signed. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Cisco argued the Department was bound by the terms of Doe’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the Department acts independently when it exercises the power to sue for FEHA violations. “As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered.” View "Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
California v. Maplebear Inc.
The San Diego City Attorney brought an enforcement action under the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (UCL), on behalf of the State of California against Maplebear Inc. DBA Instacart (Instacart). In their complaint, the State alleged Instacart unlawfully misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to deny workers employee protections, harming its alleged employees and the public at large through a loss of significant payroll tax revenue, and giving Instacart an unfair advantage against its competitors. In response to the complaint, Instacart brought a motion to compel arbitration of a portion of the City’s action based on its agreements with the individuals it hires ("Shoppers"). The trial court denied the motion, concluding Instacart failed to meet its burden to show a valid agreement to arbitrate between it and the State. Instacart challenged the trial court’s order, arguing that even though the State was not a party to its Shopper agreements, they were bound by its arbitration provision to the extent they seek injunctive relief and restitution because these remedies were “primarily for the benefit of” the Shoppers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s order. View "California v. Maplebear Inc." on Justia Law
Dina Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC
Plaintiff, an emergency medical resident, began working for Crozer Chester Medical Center (“CCMC”). Plaintiff signed an at-will employment agreement with CMCC and an agreement to arbitrate with Prospect Health Access Network (“Prospect”), a company that employs professionals working at hospitals. After Plaintiff was involved in a dispute with a supervisor at CMCC, who also was an employee of Prospect, Plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against CMCC. CMCC moved to compel arbitration.The district court denied CMCC's motion to compel arbitration and CMCC appealed.On appeal the Third Circuit affirmed, finding that Plaintiff's agreement to arbitrate any disputes between herself and Prospect did not extend to disputes involving CMCC. View "Dina Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law
Gallo v. Wood Ranch USA, Inc.
Plaintiff sued her former employer, Wood Ranch USA, Inc. (Wood Ranch) for compensatory and punitive damages on nine different causes of action. Wood Ranch moved to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion and stayed the pending court proceedings. Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the trial court’s prior order compelling arbitration. Invoking sections 1281.97 and 1281.99, Plaintiff argued that Wood Ranch’s late payment of its share of the initiation fees constituted a material breach of the arbitration agreement. The trial court granted the motion, and the Second Appellate District affirmed the court’s order vacating its earlier order compelling arbitration between the parties in this case. The appeal presents a question of first impression: Are these provisions preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)? The court held that they are not because the procedures they prescribe further—rather than frustrate—the objectives of the FAA to honor the parties’ intent to arbitrate and to preserve arbitration as a speedy and effective alternative forum for resolving disputes. The court explained that Sections 1281.97 and 1281.99 undeniably single out arbitration insofar as they define procedures that apply only to arbitrated disputes. But that they are arbitration-specific is not sufficient to warrant preemption by the FAA. Further, these sections in this case do not interfere with the FAA’s first goal of honoring the parties’ intent. Moreover, applying these sections, in this case, does not interfere with the FAA’s second goal of safeguarding arbitration as an expedited and cost-efficient vehicle for resolving disputes. View "Gallo v. Wood Ranch USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Leenay v. Super. Ct.
The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review in this case centered on whether California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1281.4 authorized the trial court to stay a plaintiff’s action on the basis of a pending arbitration to which the plaintiff was not a party. Ann Leenay brought an action against her former employer, Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC (Lowe’s), under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The trial court granted a petition to coordinate her action with a number of other PAGA actions against Lowe’s. Lowe’s then moved to stay the coordinated actions under section 1281.4. Lowe’s based the motion on over 50 arbitration proceedings against it, but Leenay and the other plaintiffs in the coordinated actions were not parties in any of those arbitration proceedings. The trial court granted the motion to stay, and Leenay filed a petition for writ of mandate asking the Court of Appeal to vacate the order. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred by granting the motion to stay. "[S]ection 1281.4 applies only when a court has ordered parties to arbitration, the arbitrable issue arises in the pending court action, and the parties in the arbitration are also parties to the court action. Under those circumstances, the court must stay the action (or enter a stay with respect to the arbitrable issue, if the issue is severable)." Those circumstances did not exist in this case. The Court therefore granted Leenay’s writ petition. View "Leenay v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law