Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. AT&T Inc.
The Union and AT&T entered into a contract governing certification of the Union to represent non-management employees and the relationship between the parties, requiring the parties to arbitrate disputes over “the description of an appropriate unit for bargaining” and the definition of “nonmanagement” employees. All other disputes arising under the contract “shall not be subject to arbitration.” Disputes that are subject to arbitration must “be submitted to arbitration administered by, and in accordance with, the rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).” The AAA’s Labor Arbitration Rules provide that the arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his own jurisdiction, “including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement.” After AT&T acquired Time Warner, the Union initiated discussions about “appropriate potential bargaining units in the newly acquired company.” The parties could not reach an agreement. The Union sought to compel arbitration. The district court dismissed, finding the dispute did not lie within the categories of arbitrable disputes, and that it (as opposed to the arbitrator) could make that threshold determination.The D.C. Circuit vacated. The agreement delegates threshold questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator. The question of whether the parties’ dispute falls within the contract’s arbitration clause, then, is for an arbitrator, not a court, to decide. The district court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the dispute must be submitted to arbitration. View "Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. AT&T Inc." on Justia Law
Selden v. Airbnb, Inc.
When Selden signed up for Airbnb, an online home rental platform, he was presented with a sign-in webpage that informs the user he is agreeing to certain terms by signing up. Airbnb’s Terms of Service required that all disputes be resolved by arbitration. After Selden signed up for Airbnb, he attempted to rent a listed room and suspected that the host denied his request because of his race, which the host could see from Selden’s profile picture. Selden created two fake Airbnb accounts with profile pictures of white individuals and used his fake accounts to request renting the same property for the same dates. According to Selden, the host accepted both requests. Selden posted his claims on social media where they went viral.Selden sued, citing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000a), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604. The district court compelled arbitration of his claims. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Airbnb. The court refused to vacate the arbitration award. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting Selden’s arguments that he did not agree to arbitrate because Airbnb’s sign-up screen failed to put him on notice of the arbitration clause in its Terms of Service, that his discrimination claims were not arbitrable, and that the arbitrator committed misconduct by failing to provide for sufficient discovery and by refusing to consider his expert report. View "Selden v. Airbnb, Inc." on Justia Law
American Federation of Government Employees Local 3690 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority
FCI Miami employees work in several departments. When the Custody Department was short-staffed, FCI either left Custody positions vacant or paid a Custody employee overtime. In 2016, FCI notified the union (AFGE) that it planned to start using Non-Custody employees to fill vacant Custody positions; it called the process “augmentation.” AFGE sought to negotiate the matter. FCI denied the request, stating that it had implemented augmentation consistent with the Master Agreement, which permits FCI to change the shift or assignment of Custody and Non-Custody employees: FCI viewed augmentation as “reassignment.”AFGE filed a formal grievance. An arbitrator concluded that FCI had breached a binding past practice of non-augmentation and violated the Master Agreement by implementing and failing to bargain over augmentation. FCI filed exceptions. The Federal Labor Relations Authority concluded that the arbitrator award failed to draw its essence from the parties’ agreement because the Master Agreement unambiguously “gives [FCI] broad discretion to assign and reassign employees”—encompassing the practice of augmentation— and set aside the award. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute allows for judicial review of an Authority decision arising from review of arbitral awards only if “the order involves an unfair labor practice, 5 U.S.C. 7123(a)(1). The Authority decision does not “involve” an unfair labor practice. View "American Federation of Government Employees Local 3690 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law
District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Ass’n v. Liberty Maritime Corp.
At issue in this labor dispute case is who decides whether the arbitrator was validly (i.e., mutually rather than unilaterally) appointed: the challenged arbitrator himself, or instead a court. The district court concluded that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) assigns to the arbitrator himself the authority to determine the validity of his own appointment.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether the challenged arbitrator was validly appointed. The court concluded that the dispute over the arbitrator's appointment involves the kind of question that is presumptively for judicial rather than arbitral resolution. The court also concluded that the parties' CBA does not overcome this presumption through a clear and unmistakable assignment of power to the challenged arbitrator himself to decide the validity of his own appointment. View "District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers' Beneficial Ass'n v. Liberty Maritime Corp." on Justia Law
LLC SPC Stileks v. Republic of Moldova
In this appeal arising from a long-running dispute between the Republic of Moldova and a Ukrainian energy provider called Energoalliance, a company called Stileks—which owns the right to Energoalliance's arbitration award—seeks to recover the arbitration award. Principally at issue is whether the district court correctly confirmed the arbitration award which, with interest, now exceeds $58 million.The DC Circuit upheld the confirmation of the award. The court rejected Moldova's claims that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, it was error to confirm the arbitral award during the pendency of certain foreign proceedings. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding prejudgment interest to appropriately compensate Stileks for the time value of money. However, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether Moldova had a settled expectation that an adverse judgment would be denominated in Moldovan lei rather than U.S. dollars. View "LLC SPC Stileks v. Republic of Moldova" on Justia Law
Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp.
After plaintiff filed suit against Parsons for employment discrimination, Parsons moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion, concluding that genuine disputes of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff agreed to arbitrate.The DC Circuit held that Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act makes plain that the district court, once it concluded that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff assented to the arbitration agreement, should have proceeded to try the issue of arbitrability. Section 4 allows the defendant to move the district court to compel the parties to arbitrate their dispute, but if arbitrability of the dispute itself is in issue, the FAA instructs the district court to proceed summarily to trial on that limited issue. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions that the district court should hold the motion in abeyance pending its prompt resolution of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate. View "Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp." on Justia Law
Camara v. Mastro’s Restaurants LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, claiming that Mastro's deprived him and other servers of a minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the District of Columbia's Minimum Wage Revision Act.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Mastro's motion to compel arbitration, holding that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that plaintiff was unaware of the arbitration agreement during the course of his work at Mastro's, and that he therefore had no reason to believe his continued employment could be seen as an intent to be bound by the agreement. The court held that the district judge, in a comprehensive opinion, correctly treated Mastro's motion as if it sought summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) with respect to the question whether plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate. In this case, Mastro's was unable to produce a copy of an arbitration agreement bearing plaintiff's signature, or any other direct evidence of his assent to be bound by the policy. Furthermore, nothing in the record negates plaintiff's sworn declaration that he was unaware of the agreement's existence and had no reason to believe he had relinquished his right to a trial. View "Camara v. Mastro's Restaurants LLC" on Justia Law
Pigford v. Perdue
Appellant filed suit claiming damages under the Consent Decree created in the 1999 settlement between the Department of Agriculture and a class of African American farmers. After the arbitrator denied the claims, appellant petitioned the district court for "monitor review" of the arbitrator's decision. The district court denied the petition and appellant's two motions for reconsideration.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that monitor review of the arbitrator's decision would have been futile because there was no evidence of appellant's incompetency in the record before the arbitrator. In this case, appellant's actions could be interpreted as a product of irrationality or confusion or frustration but do not support an inference of incompetence. The court also affirmed the district court's decision declining to modify the consent decree under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5), because appellant's counsel failed to meet the arbitration deadlines. View "Pigford v. Perdue" on Justia Law
Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic – Ministry of Health
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment refusing to enforce an arbitral award against the Czech Republic Ministry of Health and in favor of Diag Human, S.E., a corporation organized under the laws of the Principality of Liechtenstein. The court held that the final award was not binding on the Czech Republic where, not only the termination of the review, but also the content of the arbitration review panel's "Resolution," prevented the final award from becoming binding. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties had recourse to another arbitration panel, which was sufficient to prevent the award from becoming binding at that time. View "Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic - Ministry of Health" on Justia Law
Republic of Argentina v. AWG Group Ltd.
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's enforcement of the arbitration panel's award against Argentina. The panel held that Argentina was liable to AWG for breach of a contract for the country's water services. Argentina argued that a member of the arbitration panel had, with a connection to two of the parties to the proceeding, shown "evident partiality" under 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(2), and that the way the panel reached its determination exceeded its authority under section 10(a)(4). The court held that the interests at issue were trivial and could not have created evident partiality. Therefore, the court found no basis to vacate the panel's award under section 10(a)(2) of the Federal Arbitration Act. The court also held that Argentina failed to show that the panel's decision had no basis in the governing arbitration agreement. Likewise, the court could not vacate the award under the New York Convention. View "Republic of Argentina v. AWG Group Ltd." on Justia Law