Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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Economy Linen and Towel Service faced a shortfall of qualified truck drivers and subcontracted with another firm to provide the necessary drivers. The union filed a grievance on the ground that the new drivers earned a higher hourly rate than the union-represented employees. An arbitrator ruled for the union. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that in reviewing arbitration awards, courts do not ask whether the arbitrator interpreted the contract correctly; “the parties bargained for an arbitrator’s interpretation of the contract, not a federal judge’s interpretation of it.” The court noted that this situation did not involve any allegations of fraud and that the arbitrator did not decide any issue outside of his authority but only determined which contractual provision controlled. View "Economy Linen & Towel Service, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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Local Union 3-G represents employees at Kellogg’s Battle Creek plant and is affiliated with the International Union, which represents employees at additional Kellogg’s plants. “Regular” employees and “non-regular” employees, including casual employees, make up the 3-G bargaining unit. There is a Master Agreement between Kellogg, the International Union, and local unions at four plants, which have Supplemental Agreements. A Memorandum of Agreement, appended to the Battle Creek Supplemental Agreement, states that the Supplemental and Master Agreements will not apply to casual employees and the Company may terminate casual employees without being subject to the grievance procedure. A 2015 Master Agreement “established wage rates, a signing ratification bonus for all employees, the establishment of a transitional employee classification to replace casual employees, and other changes" for all Battle Creek bargaining unit employees. After the ratification vote, Kellogg refused to pay a ratification bonus to casual employees, seasonal employees, and some regular employees. The parties went through the grievance procedure, but Kellogg refused to arbitrate, arguing that the arbitration provisions do not apply to casual employees. The Sixth Circuit previously held that arbitration provisions in the “Memphis Supplemental Agreement” did not cover casual employees. The district court determined that judicial estoppel did not apply to the Battle Creek action and granted the motion to compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, The Agreement has a broad arbitration clause, so the presumption of arbitrability is particularly applicable. View "Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union AFL-CIO v. Kellogg Co." on Justia Law

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Gaffers is a former employee of Kelly, which provides outsourcing and consulting services to firms around the world, including “virtual” call center support, where employees like Gaffers work from home. Gaffers alleged that Kelly underpaid virtual employees, based on time spent logging in to Kelly’s network, logging out, and fixing technical problems. Gaffers sued on behalf of himself and his co-workers (over 1,600 have joined) seeking back pay and liquidated damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 216(b). About half of the employees that Gaffers sought to represent signed an arbitration agreement with Kelly (Gaffers did not sign one) stating that individual arbitration is the “only forum” for employment claims, including unpaid-wage claims. Kelly moved to compel individual arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 4. Gaffers contended that the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act rendered the arbitration agreements unenforceable. The district court agreed with Gaffers. The Sixth Circuit reversed. In 2018, the Supreme Court held, in Epic Systems, that the National Labor Relations Act does not invalidate individual arbitration agreements. The court rejected arguments that FLSA displaced the Arbitration Act by providing a right to “concerted activities” or “collective action” or rendered the employees’ arbitration agreements illegal and unenforceable. View "Gaffers v. Kelly Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the bankruptcy court concluding that Mountain Glacier properly reserved its arbitration claim in its dispute with Nestle Waters after Mountain Glacier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy automatically stayed the companies’ arbitration. After the bankruptcy proceedings ended, Mountain Glacier attempted to resume arbitration, but Nestle Waters objected, arguing that Mountain Glacier failed properly to reserve the arbitration in its reorganization plan. The lower courts disagreed, as did the Sixth Circuit, holding (1) Mountain Glacier’s reservation enabled creditors to identify its claim and evaluate whether additional assets might be available for distribution; and (2) neither Browning v. Levy, 283 F.3d 761, 772 (6th Cir. 2002) nor 11 U.S.C. 1123(b)(3) required Mountain Glacier to provide more information than it did. View "Nestlé Waters North America. Inc. v. Mountain Glacier LLC" on Justia Law

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The Unions represents the pilots of merged airlines Flight Options and Flexjet. Flight Options and its pilots have had a collective bargaining agreement since 2010, while Flexjet’s pilots are newly unionized and are not yet party to a CBA. The parties dispute whether the integration of the pilot groups’ seniority lists (ISL) is solely a Union matter, so that the airlines must accept the Union's list or whether the airlines should have been allowed to participate in negotiating the list. The 2010 CBA governs the creation of the ISL when Flight Options acquires another carrier. The district court, acting under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 152, entered a preliminary injunction ordering the airlines to accept the Union’s ISL. On appeal, the airlines argued that the dispute was “minor” and subject to exclusive arbitral jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. The 2010 CBA does not arguably justify the airlines' assertion that they have a right to participate in the ISL process; the dispute is major. The district court properly enjoined the airlines to honor the express terms of the CBA, but those terms provide that if the airlines refuse to accept the Union’s proffered ISL, the Union may invoke an expedited grievance-arbitration process, which uniquely applies to such disputes. The court ordered modification of the injunction accordingly. View "Flight Options v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hopkins died in a nursing home. Her estate sued the nursing home, Preferred Care, which asked a federal court to enforce the arbitration provision in Hopkins’ admissions agreement. The district court compelled arbitration, enjoined Hopkins from proceeding in the Kentucky state court action, and stayed the federal case until arbitration concluded. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal as prohibited by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 16(a). The Act permits review of orders that interfere with arbitration, such as those “refusing” stays of federal proceedings in favor of arbitration and those “denying” petitions to enforce arbitration agreements, as well as interlocutory orders “granting, continuing, or modifying an injunction against an arbitration,” but prohibits appeals from other interlocutory orders that favor arbitration, such as those “granting” stays in favor of arbitration, “directing” or “compelling” arbitration, or “refusing” to enjoin an arbitration. View "Preferred Care of Delaware, Inc. v. Estate of Hopkins" on Justia Law

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The Michigan office of Alix, an international company, administers payroll and benefits for U.S. employees and is directly involved in U.S. hiring. In 2013, Alix hired Brewington, a Texas resident, for its Dallas Corporate Services team. The employment agreement provides that it “will be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Michigan” and states, “any dispute arising out of or in connection with any aspect of this Agreement and/or any termination of employment . . ., shall be exclusively subject to binding arbitration under the . . . American Arbitration Association . . . decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding as to both parties.” In 2014, Brewington was terminated. He filed a demand for arbitration, asserting claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, on behalf of himself and a purported nationwide class of current, former, and potential Alix employees. The Michigan district court ruled that Brewington was precluded from pursuing arbitration claims on behalf of any purported class. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that court’s refusal to dismiss, finding that Brewington had sufficient contacts with Michigan to establish personal jurisdiction, and upheld summary judgment in favor of Alix. An agreement must expressly include the possibility of classwide arbitration to indicate that the parties agreed to it. This clause is silent on the issue and is limited to claims concerning “this Agreement,” as opposed to other agreements. It refers to “both parties.” View "AlixPartners, LLP v. Brewington" on Justia Law

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Samaan, a General Dynamics engineer since 1977, believed that the company was using the wrong shock-and-vibration testing methods on Stryker armored vehicles developed for use by the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led, in turn, to submission of purportedly erroneous reports detailing the shock-and-vibration specifications for the vehicles. Samaan alleged that from 2004-2010 he repeatedly raised his concerns and eventually “filed a formal claim of data misrepresentation, fraud, and retaliation” with the Human Resources Department in 2010. General Dynamics allegedly gave Samaan his first poor performance evaluation in 2011, with a statement that his evaluation “would improve if he would ‘forget’ about the testing misrepresentation and fraud.” Samaan eventually took his concerns to the Army. He was suspended without pay, then filed suit, alleging retaliation, and resigned. An arbitrator, required by Samaan’s employment agreement, issued an award in favor of the Company, which the district court declined to vacate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the procedures employed during arbitration and stating that the Federal Arbitration Act does not allow for vacatur based on the fulfillment of moral and ethical obligations. View "Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Mr. Nichols was admitted to the Richmond, Kentucky, Kenwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. He signed an agreement that states that it applies to “any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement” including “wrongful death.” It is governed by “The Kentucky Uniform Arbitration Act. . . . If for any reason there is a finding that Kentucky law cannot support the enforcement of this Agreement, then the Parties agree to resolve their disputes by arbitration . . . pursuant to the [FAA].” It binds Nichols and all persons with claims through or on behalf of him. After Nichols dies, his estate sued, asserting wrongful death and other state law claims. The district court declined to compel arbitration of the wrongful-death claim, but stayed the case until arbitration of the other claims was complete. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, relying on state law precedent, not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, that a wrongful-death claim is “independent” of any claims held by a decedent and constitutes a “distinct interest in a property right that belongs only to the statutorily-designated beneficiaries.” Decedents have no “cognizable legal rights” in that claim. View "Richmond Health Facilities v. Nichols" on Justia Law