Where Statutory Violations Are Alleged, Presumption Of Arbitrability Applying To Contractual Disputes Arising Out Of A Collective Bargaining Agreement Does Not Apply.
Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are a different animal requiring close scrutiny when the question of arbitrability arises in an employment dispute. In Vasserman v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, No. B267975 (2/4 2/7/17) (Collins, Epstein, Manella), the Court holds that the "CBA did not include an expressly stated, clear and unmistakable waiver of the right to a judicial forum for individual statutory claims. The trial court properly denied [the employer's] motion to compel arbitration."
Plaintiff Vasserman had filed a class action against her employer, asserting statutory claims. The employer Hospital removed to federal court, which remanded, holding that Vasserman's claims arose under state law that did not substantially depend on interpretation of the CBAs. In state court, the Hospital sought to compel arbitration, and appealed when the state court judge denied the motion.
Most interesting is the Court's explanation of why the presumption of arbitrability does not apply to contractual disputes arising out of a CBA, thus requiring that a waiver of the right to a judicial forum be express, clear, and unmistakable in the case of statutory rights:
"As the United States Supreme Court explained in Wright [525 U.S. 70 (1998)], cases involving statutory claims "ultimately concern[ ] not the application or interpretation of any CBA, but the meaning of a . . . statute" and rights "distinct from any right conferred by the collective-bargaining agreement." (Wright, 525 U.S. at pp. 78-79.) In other words, a plaintiff such as Vasserman asserts rights conferred to her and all workers under California law, regardless of whether the employment occurred under the terms of a CBA. Therefore, when a plaintiff has alleged statutory violations, the "ultimate question" is "not what the parties have agreed to, but what [applicable] law requires; and that is not a question which should be presumed to be included within the arbitration requirement." (Id. at p. 79.)"
COMMENT: The remand by the federal district court to state court on the ground that the plaintiff's claims did not substantially depend on interpretation of the CBAs may have been a clue that the Hospital would have a tough row to hoe when arguing that the CBA covered the statutory claims.