South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Federal Employment Rights Do Not Preclude Arbitration of Dispute
Description

Appeals court held that an employee covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act has the protections offered by that statute, but since it does not preclude arbitration, the employment dispute will go to arbitration as required by the employment agreement.

Topic

Alternate Dispute Resolution

Key Words

Employment; Military Status

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Garrett worked at Circuit City. He was a member of the Marine Reserves. Circuit City has a policy that requires all employment disputes to go to arbitration. During the war in Iraq, Garrett began training for possible assignment. He claimed that during this time, after seven years employment, he came under unjustified criticism and discipline from his superiors at Circuit City. He was fired, he contended, only because of his military status. He sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects the employment rights of members of the armed forces. Circuit City contended that the case had to go to arbitration; Garrett contended that USERRA requires that suits go to court. The trial court agreed. Circuit City appealed.

Decision

Reversed. USERRA authorizes civil actions in federal court for employment actions, but it does not preclude enforcement of contracts to arbitrate employment claims. If Congress had wished to preclude arbitration, it would have stated such in the statute. USERRA provides certain statutory protections and benefits, but it does not prevent those rights to be determined by arbitration.

Citation

Garrett v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 449 F.3d 672 (5th Cir., 2006)

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