In Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, No. 12-125 (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that an arbitrator can require a class action arbitration.
The gist of the case is that Sutter, a pediatrician, had a fee-for-services contract, which required arbitration for all contractual disputes. When Oxford failed to promptly pay him and other physicians, Sutter filed a class action in New Jersey. After filing, the court compelled arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that the contract called for class action arbitration. Sutter appealed to higher courts, but these appeals were denied.
The Supreme Court explained its decision as follows. First, the parties agreed to go to arbitration in their contract. Second, an arbitrator looks at the contract, makes a decision based on the contractual language, and this decision is binding. Thirdly, and most importantly, the Supreme Court explained that judicial review is limited to whether the arbitrator interpreted the contract, not whether the court agreed with the decision. Consequently, because the arbitrator considered the contract, the arbitrator’s decision stands. They only way to vacate an arbitral decision is when an arbitrator strayed from his task of interpreting the contract. In other words, not when he performed his task poorly.
As a note: In prior decisions (Steelworkers Trilogy/Misco) in the labor context under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), the Supreme Court had ruled that a contractual language had to explicitly allow class actions in the arbitration clause. Here, the arbitration clause did not do so.
This raises the question of how the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) reconciles with LMRA arbitrations when they are both present. In this case, only the FAA was involved.
via Workplace Prof Blog: SCOTUS OKs Class Arbitration.
Elkouri & Elkouri is the must-have books for attorneys that handle arbitrations in the labor field.
The 7th edition is edited by Kenneth May and is available for $325. BNAs web site describes this book as follows:
The new Seventh Edition provides additional analysis that enhances the usefulness of the volume and incorporates major points of interest to labor relations practitioners. In-depth coverage of critical topics includes:
- Arbitrators consideration of external law in labor arbitration
- Legislation and litigation developing standards for evidentiary privilege as it relates to union shop stewardsArbitrators views on threats and violence
- Reconsideration of the continued viability of the plain meaning rule
- New case law on the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to labor arbitration
- Revision of the discussion of state and local government arbitration and interest arbitration in light of recent changes in state law
via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Book Review Highlight Elkouri and Elkouri How Arbitration Works 2012.
Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 2 v. Silgan Containers Mfg. Corp., ____F.3d___8th Cir. 8/28/12
Union may continue to enforce CBAs mandatory arbitration provision on behalf of worker who died after grievance arose but before arbitration began.
via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: A Grievance Is Arbitrable Even After An Employee Dies.
Filed under labor, NLRB, union
Mitchell H. Rubinstein, over at the Adjunct Law Prof Blog, sends along this important development in labor relations law from Alaska:
The Court held that “[b]ased on the strong interest in confidential union-related communications and statutory protection against unfair labor practices, we hold [the state labor relations act] impliedly provides the State’s union employees a union-relations privilege.” The reasoning employed by the Court – that “the proper functioning of [a] mandatory grievance and arbitration system . . . requires some protection for confidential communications made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of grievance-related representative services to the employee” and that recognizing a privilege “harmonizes [the state labor relations act]‘s strong public policy in favor of contractual resolution of labor disputes with the civil discovery rules” – should be useful in other states and in other settings where this issue frequently arises.
I agree with Mich that this is a “major decision.” And like him, I hope other states soon follow suit. For those interested in this topic, Mitch wrote a law review article on this topic a few years ago: Is a Full Labor Relations Evidentiary Privilege Developing?, 29 Berkeley Journal of Labor and Employment Law 221 (2008).
Newspaper Guild v. Hearst Corp., ___F.3d___ 2d Cir. May 17, 2011, is an important decision. As most readers will recognize, unions depend upon union dues to operate. But what happens when a CBA expires? Does a dues checkoff provision remain valid? According to the Second Circuit, it depends. Interestingly, the 2d Circuit rejected the notion that a dues checkoff provision was a type of accurred or vest benefit. Instead, the court focused on the language of the dues check off provision in the CBA. If it can be read as still applying during the contractual hiatus, then the matter is subject to arbitration. An arbitrator would ultimately have to determine if the CBA was in fact violated by the suspension of dues check off.
via Adjunct Law Prof Blog.