California court affirms that Save Mart Supermarkets cannot compel former employees into arbitration

By Charmaine Little | Jan 10, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – Save Mart Supermarkets Inc. was unable to convince the California 3rd District Court of Appeal to compel three individuals to arbitration in suits over alleged violation of state law statutory employment claims.

The appeals court affirmed on Dec. 31 the decision from the Superior Court of Placer County that denied Save Mart’s motion to compel arbitration. While three former employees filed suits against Save Mart, the appeals court consolidated the appeals after Save Mart challenged the lower court’s decision.

Judge Elena J. Duarte ruled on the case while William J. Murray and Andrea Lynn Hoch concurred.

The motion to compel arbitration was denied because the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) does not “provide for arbitration of a worker’s claims based on violations of state anti-discrimination or retaliation statutes, nor do federal labor relations preempt such claims,” the appeals court stated. 

It reiterated the lower court’s decision that the CBA in question did not "clearly and unmistakably provide for arbitration of the claims asserted," the opinion states. Therefore, the plaintiffs’ cases are not blocked by federal law, based on policies outlined in section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act.

While each employee had a different lawsuit, they each alleged failure to accommodate, retaliation and wrongful discharge via the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. 

Plaintiff David Hagins alleged he suffered retaliation following his reporting of a workplace hazard. Plaintiff Jose Robles alleged he experienced an industrial injury and his doctor said he could work with restrictions. 

“He was then demeaned by having to ask permission to use the bathroom and having to wear a degrading safety vest, and when he complained he was suspended without pay,” according to the opinion.

Plaintiff Christopher Rymel alleged he had an industrial injury to his back and was on Workers’ Compensation leave. He alleged he was also ordered to do what he described as degrading work conditions when he returned to work.

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