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Statutory Rights Cannot Be Forced Into Arbitration Unless Contract Clear and Unmistakable
Description Appeals court held that a collective-bargaining agreement, which held that "all grievances" would go to arbitration, is not clear and unmistakable to include all employee rights created by federal statute, such as disability discrimination. The employee could sue in court rather than go to arbitration.
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Statutory Claim; Collective Bargaining; Disability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Brown, a truck driver for ABF, sued his employer for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ABF responded that its collective-bargaining agreement with Brown's union required that the complaint go to arbitration, as do "all grievances or questions of interpretation arising under this ... agreement." The district court ordered the disability complaint to go to arbitration. Brown appealed.
Decision Reversed. The Supreme Court has "established that a union-negotiated waiver of employees' right to a federal judicial forum for statutory employment-discrimination claims must be clear and unmistakable." That standard was not met in this collective-bargaining agreement's arbitration clause, which simply refers to "all grievances or questions of interpretation." For federal rights, such as the Americans with Disability Act, to be required to be resolved by arbitration, the contract must be clear and unmistakably established on that point.
Citation Brown v. ABF Freight Systems, Inc., 183 F.3d 319 (4th Cir., 1999)

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