— Posts About Arbitration

Mike and Narendra Secure Fourth Circuit Victory for Union

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Patterson Harkavy’s client in Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 289 v. Verizon S., Inc., No. 12-2013, 2013 WL 3770706 (4th Cir. July 19, 2013).

The case arose from a dispute surrounding Verizon’s termination of employee Brian Pollard.  Verizon sought to avoid arbitration of the controversy, claiming that Mr. Pollard was only a probationary employee without the right to arbitrate his discharge under the Union’s collective bargaining agreement.  Representing the Union in the Middle District of North Carolina, attorneys Narendra Ghosh and Mike Okun filed a motion to compel arbitration.  In January of 2012, Magistrate Judge Trevor Sharp recommended that the Union’s motion to compel arbitration be granted.  Following the Recommendation’s adoption by Judge William Osteen, Jr., Verizon South appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

In an opinion issued last week, the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed the District Court’s ruling, finding that both the Collective Bargaining Agreement and a separate agreement were “at minimum, reasonably susceptible to the interpretation that the Union advances.”  Since doubts as to whether an arbitration clause covers a given dispute are resolved in favor of coverage, the Fourth Circuit found it appropriate to compel arbitration of the dispute.

Congratulations to Mike and Narendra on the win!

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NLRB Strikes Blow Against Bans on Class Action Arbitrations

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled in favor of both union and non-union private sector employees on a significant issue concerning workplace litigation.  At issue were mandatory arbitration agreements signed upon employment that force employees to bring claims one by one in front of an arbitrator and prohibit employees joining as a group to arbitrate their claims.  The Labor Board concluded that such agreements violate employee rights under the NLRA to engage in concerted activity.  This ruling supports workers’ rights to join together to bring legal claims to arbitration collectively.  More coverage can be found here.

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United States Supreme Court High Season Begins

Although the Surpreme Court issues opinions throughout its term, many come out towards the back end of the term, which concludes in June.  In the last couple of weeks, the Court has issued several decisions which touch on employment law:

In Conkirght v. Frommert, the 5-3 majority upheld the company’s denial of pension benefits to former employees.  Write-up here.

In Perdue v. Kenny A., the 5-4 majority rejected the trial court’s calculations of the appropriate amount of attorneys’ fees for the prevailing plaintiff in a civil rights case.  Write-up here.

In Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds, a similar 5-3 majority rejected class action arbitration in this commercial case.  Down the line, there might be some applicability to employer-employee arbitration agreements.  Write-up here.

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fourth Circuit Upholds Labor Arbitration Decision and Two-Member NLRB Decision

The Fourth Circuit has recently published two labor law opinions, the first concerning whether an arbitrator exceeding his authority in resolving a grievance, and the second concerning whether to uphold a decision of the two-member National Labor Relations Board.

In PPG Industries v. ICWUC/UCFW, the union had filed a grievance because the company had failed to pay bonuses as set forth in the Bonus Plan to workers who had gone on strike.  At issue was whether the term “actively employed” in the Bonus Plan encompassed striking workers.  The arbitrator found that it did.  Courts must uphold the decisions of labor arbitrators unless they have exceeded their authority.  As the arbitrator here reasonably interpreted the Bonus Plan, his decision was upheld by the court.

In Naricott Industries v. NLRB, the Fourth Circuit considered the propriety of the two-member Board.  Because replacements for three of the NLRB’s board members have not been approved by Congress for quite some time, the Board has been operating with a two-member quorum.  As long as those two members can agree, the Board has been issuing decisions.  Whether the two-member board is actually authorized to act under the NLRA has been litigated in several circuits.  Two circuits have ruled that it is proper, while the DC Circuit has ruled that it is not.  The Fourth Circuit joined the majority, following the interpretation espoused by the Board as well as DOJ.  In any event, the Supreme Court will soon make a final decision on this issue.  In the remainder of the opinion, the court upheld the Board’s conclusion that the company had committed unfair labor practices by actively assisting an effort to decertify the union, and its order requiring the company to bargain with the union.

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s Employment and Workers’ Compensation Decisions by the NC Court of Appeals

Hawkins v. General Electric Co.: The court mostly affirmed an award to the plaintiff based on an occupational disease, contact dermititis, that was causally related to his employment.  The court also agreed that he was disabled as long as his condition persisted.

Jeffers v. D’Alessandro: The plaintiff, a former player for the Carolina Panthers, had brought suit against the Panthers and related parties regarding medical treatment he received.  The court held that his claims were preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, and that the trial court was correct to compel arbitration.

Griessel v Temas Eye Ctr., P.C.: The plaintiff had brought several claims, including under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act and for breach of contract.  The court remanded for findings regarding whether  there was a valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties.

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Fourth Circuit Affirms Decision for Union

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision for the union  in United Steelworkers, Local 850L v. Continental Tire.  The Court agreed with the union that the dispute over pension and health benefits had to submitted to arbitration.  Michael Okun assisted with the representation of the union.

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