Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CBA Doesn't Require Union Nurses to Arbitrate Wage and Hour Claims

Wasserman v. Henry Mayo Newhall Mem. Hosp., No. B267975 (D2d4 Feb. 7. 2014)

Plaintiff is a unionized nurse bringing a class action for wage and hour violations against her employer. Her union’s collective bargain agreement contains a bunch of provisions related to hours, pay, breaks, and overtime, and it also contains a grievance procedure that culminates in a labor arbitration. Plaintiff’s claims, however, are statutory; they are not grounded in breach of the CBA. So the question is whether the arbitration provisions of the CBA are broad enough to compel arbitration anyway.

The fight is over whether the arbitration in the CBA was sufficiently “clear and unmistakable” as to cover statutory claims. You see, unlike an ordinary arbitration agreement, which is read in favor of arbitrability of claims, waiving it members jury trial rights for statutory claims brought outside of the CBA is not something unions ordinarily do. (Indeed, there’s a threshold questions of whether unions can do that, but the parties didn’t address it.) So generally, a CBA is not subject to a presumption of arbitrability for non-CBA claims. Hence the “clear and unmistakable” standard. 

The CBA here didn’t cut it under that standard. It says the grievance procedure covers “any complaint or dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of a specific Article and Section of this Agreement.” It further says that the arbitrator “shall be without authority to decide matters specifically excluded or not included in this Agreement.” Those are hardly the kinds of clear and unmistakable manifestations of intent that would subject statutory claims—claims “not included in this Agreement”—to arbitration. 


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