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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Volpei v. County of Ventura: Public Employer May Not Compel Arbitration of FEHA Claims Unless Collective Bargaining Agreement "Clearly and Unmistakably" Waives Employee's Right To Proceed in Court

A quick word on Volpei v. County of Ventura (11/7/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---.

Mark Volpei worked as an investigator for the Ventura County District Attorney's office (County). Volpei was a member of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs' Association (Association), which had a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the County.

In 2011, Volpei sued the County for retaliation, harassment, disability discrimination, and other claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In 2012, the County petitioned to compel arbitration under the MOA, which provided that a grievance, including a claim of disability discrimination, "may be submitted to arbitration by the Association...."

The trial court denied the petition, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the MOA did not "clearly and unmistakably" waive Volpei's right to proceed in court:
We conclude that the provision that an unresolved grievance "may be submitted to arbitration by the Association" is not a clear and unmistakable agreement to arbitrate Volpei's statutory claims against the County. 
Slip op. at 3. 

The opinion is available here

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