Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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In 2013, Scheurer applied to work at Richelieu which outsourced its staffing needs to Remedy, a temporary staffing agency. The application form she signed with Remedy for placement with Richelieu contained an arbitration agreement. She was assigned to work for Richelieu, but that assignment ended after some months. About a year later, Remedy placed Scheurer with Fromm. Scheurer alleges that while working at Fromm, her supervisor sexually harassed her and that Fromm took no serious action to address the sexual harassment and instead fired her. Fromm tried to arrange a work situation that would have separated Scheurer from the supervisor, but when that proved “impossible,” Fromm asked Remedy to assign Scheurer to another client. Scheurer filed suit against Fromm, but not Remedy, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐2(a)(1) & 2000e‐3(a). Fromm argued that arbitration should be compelled under the contract law principle of equitable estoppel and because Fromm was a third‐party beneficiary of the Remedy agreement. The district court denied Fromm’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no basis for finding that Fromm relied on Scheurer’s arbitration agreement since Fromm did not even know about it and Fromm was not a third‐party beneficiary of Remedy’s agreement with Scheurer. View "Scheurer v. Fromm Family Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hyatt and Local 1 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that prohibits the hotel’s managerial employees from performing work normally performed by bargaining-unit employees absent an emergency. The CBA provides for the arbitration of any disputes not resolved by the grievance procedure. In 2013-2014, there were several incidents in which managers performed bargaining-unit work in circumstances that Local 1 did not regard as emergencies. The union took grievances to arbitration; both resulted in awards in Local 1's favor. Ninety days passed without Hyatt filing a petition to vacate; the union filed a petition to confirm the awards (Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a)). The union alleged that Hyatt “has failed and refused and continues to fail and refuse to comply with” the awards. Local 1 cited 41 examples of managers allegedly performing bargaining unit work in 2015. The Seventh Circuit affirmed confirmation of the awards, rejecting Hyatt’s argument that the matter was either moot or did not present an appropriate case for confirmation. The district court’s “modest action” places the court’s contempt power behind the prospective relief ordered by the arbitrators, while reserving the merits of pending or future grievances for arbitration. Local 1 has conceded that any contempt petition would be based solely on the outcome of arbitrations post-dating the confirmation order. Confirming the awards does not undermine the agreement to resolve disputes through arbitration. View "Unite Here Local 1 v. Hyatt Corp." on Justia Law

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Hunt worked as a truck driver. In 2010, he signed an Independent Contractor Operating Agreement with Moore Brothers, a small Norfolk, Nebraska company. Three years later, Hunt and Moore renewed the Agreement. Before the second term expired, however, relations between the parties soured. Hunt hired Attorney Rine. Rine filed suit in federal court, although the Agreements contained arbitration clauses. Rine resisted arbitration, arguing that the clause was unenforceable as a matter of Nebraska law. Tired of what it regarded as a flood of frivolous arguments and motions, the district court granted Moore’s motion for sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927 and ordered Rine to pay Moore about $7,500. The court later dismissed the action without prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It was within the district court’s broad discretion, in light of all the circumstances, to impose a calibrated sanction on Rine for her conduct of the litigation, culminating in the objectively baseless motion she filed in opposition to arbitration. View "James Hunt v. Moore Brothers, Inc." on Justia Law

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During October 2008 the Trust lost $3.6 million trading futures contracts. Contending that errors by Dorman, a futures commission merchant, caused some of these losses, in October 2011 the Trust asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to order Dorman to make reparation, 7 U.S.C. 18(a)(1). The Commission dismissed the claim as untimely. The Trust had made a claim within the two-year limitations period, but with the National Futures Association, which referred it to arbitration. The arbitrators awarded the Trust $500,000 against several defendants but ruled in favor of Dorman because the Trust’s contract with that entity set a one‐year time limit for financial claims. The Commission rejected the Trust’s claim of equitable tolling. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The Trust knew about the trading losses as soon as they occurred but did nothing for almost two years; it did not diligently pursue the Commission’s processes. The Trust did not say that any circumstance, let alone an extraordinary one, prevented timely filing. The court reasoned that the arbitral award, right or wrong, has nothing to do with equitable tolling. View "Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Jefferies, a securities and investment-banking firm, hired Frawley as its vice chairman and global head of metals and listed products. On the same day, Jeffries hired Webb, a sales executive in the global metals group headed by Frawley at a firm they had previously worked for, and Beversdorf, a director of that group. Webb and Beversdorf signed employment contracts, consenting “that any arbitration proceeding brought with respect to matters related to your employment or this Agreement shall be brought before [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] … or if the parties are permitted … [or] to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts. “ In 2013 Jefferies decided to get out of the iron ore business and ordered Frawley to tell Webb and Beversdorf to stop trading iron ore. Frawley did not tell them but pushed for more iron ore trades. Months later, Jefferies fired the two, who sued Frawley. Frawley successfully moved to compel arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that Beversdorf agreed to arbitration. Webb, however, did not sign such an agreement; the document he signed was just an agreement concerning venue. Webb remains free to litigate his dispute with Frawley in federal court. View "Webb v. Frawley" on Justia Law

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Dismissal for failure to exhaust collective bargaining agreement (CBA) grievance process was improper where it was unclear that CBA required resort to that process for claims under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Vega worked for Forest as a seasonal employee, subject to a CBA that included a mandatory four-step procedure culminating in arbitration to resolve employee grievances. Forest terminated Vega. At the time, Vega was owed compensation for 54 hours of work in the preceding two weeks. Forest did not tender a final paycheck, purportedly because it discovered that Vega lacked a valid Social Security number and it did not know how to lawfully make payment to him without such a number. The parties dispute whether Vega made efforts to initiate a grievance. The district court dismissed Vega’s suit under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 206(b), for failure to exhaust the grievance procedure. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the collective bargaining agreement did not clearly and unmistakably waive Vega’s right to pursue his FLSA claim in a judicial forum. The district court did not consider whether the CBA required Vega to resort to the grievance process when he is pursuing rights granted to him by the FLSA rather than the contract itself. View "Vega v. New Forest Home Cemetery, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a 2013 fire at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the county filed a claim with its primary insurer, the State of Wisconsin Local Government Property Insurance Fund. The Fund had engaged Lexington as either its reinsurer or excess insurer (the parties disagree) and maintained a separate insurance policy with Cincinnati Insurance that covered machinery and equipment at the Courthouse. The Fund paid all but a small portion of the county’s claimed losses, filed a reimbursement claim with Lexington, and insisted that the remaining unpaid portion of the county’s claim should be paid by Cincinnati. Pursuant to separate Joint Loss Agreements (JLA) in the county’s policies, the Fund and Cincinnati agreed to arbitrate their dispute. The district court denied Lexington’s motion to be allowed to participate in the arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Fund policy JLA provides a procedure whereby the parties could “signify” an agreement to arbitrate. No such signals were exchanged between Lexington and any other party; no agreement to arbitrate exists between Lexington and the other insurers. Absent such an agreement, Lexington is not entitled to insert itself into the arbitration between the Fund and Cincinnati. View "State of Wisconsin Local Government Property Insurance Fund v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2011 Bankers leased Chicago office space from CBRE. Another tenant, Groupon, needed more office space. CBRE asked Bankers to sublease to Groupon and relocate. Bankers and CBRE signed a Listing Agreement, including terms required by 225 ILCS 454/15-5(a), 15-75. Bankers told CBRE that it wanted to net $7 million from its deals with Groupon and the lessor of the replacement space. CBRE presented Bankers with cost-benefit analyses (CBAs), comparing the costs of leasing new space with the benefits of subleasing the old space to Groupon. A May 2011 CBA showed a net savings of $6.9 million to Bankers from relocating to East Wacker Drive. Bankers responded by subleasing to Groupon and leasing that space. CBRE’s calculation was inaccurate. It omitted Bankers’ promise to give Groupon a $3.1 million tenant improvement allowance. Had Bankers known it would profit by only $3.8 million, it would have rejected the deal; CBRE would not have obtained $4.5 million in commissions. In an arbitration proceeding, the panel issued three “final decisions,” all favoring CBRE, and awarded costs. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The panel exceeded its authority. It was authorized to interpret the contract (Listing Agreement), which did not include the CBAs or a disclaimer contained in the CBAs. View "Bankers Life & Cas/ Ins. Co. v. CBRE, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Calumet River Fleeting fired a boat operator. The Union, which represents operators in three states, filed a grievance. Calumet refused to participate in arbitration. In 2006, Calumet and the Union had signed a memorandum of agreement binding Calumet to the terms of the Great Lakes Floating Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement that covers marine construction. The agreement contained an “evergreen clause” requiring the employer to adhere to the terms of each successive edition of the agreement until the agreement was properly terminated. In September 2008, Calumet terminated its participation in the Floating Agreement, meaning that contractors who were signatories to the Agreement could no longer hire Calumet without violating the Agreement’s subcontracting provision. Less than two years later, Selvick (Calumet’s owner) organized a new company, Selvick Marine, which signed a memorandum of agreement with the Union. The district court granted summary judgment to Calumet, holding that it was no longer a party to any agreement with the Union that might have required arbitration. The Union appealed, arguing that an earlier arbitration award in an unrelated proceeding had found that Calumet was an alter ego of Selvick Marine. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the alter ego argument. View "Calumet River Fleeting, Inc. v. Int'l Union of Operating​ Eng'rsi" on Justia Law

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Epic Systems sent an email to employees, containing an arbitration agreement mandating that wage-and-hour claims could be brought only through individual arbitration and that the employees waived “the right to participate in or receive money or any other relief from any class, collective, or representative proceeding.” The agreement included a clause stating that if the “Waiver of Class and Collective Claims” was unenforceable, “any claim brought on a class, collective, or representative action basis must be filed in a court of competent jurisdiction.” It stated that employees were “deemed to have accepted this Agreement” if they “continue[d] to work at Epic.”.The following day, Lewis, a “technical writer” at Epic, followed instructions for registering his agreement. Later, Lewis had a dispute with Epic, and sued Epic in federal court, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, and Wisconsin law. Lewis responded that the arbitration clause interfered with employees’ right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection and was unenforceable. The district court agreed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the motion to compel arbitration, finding that the agreement violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151, and is also unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1. View "Lewis v. Epic Sys. Corp." on Justia Law