Sunday, March 8, 2015

Federal court rules that CBA does not block employee from pursuing discrimination claim

A broadly-worded arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement did not preclude an employee from bringing an employment discrimination claim against her employer, a federal judge has ruled. The employee did not exhaust her grievance procedures, as the CBA expressly required, before filing her claim of retaliation and failure to promote. The employer argued that the CBA required the employee to proceed through the grievance and arbitration process before pursuing her claim in court or, in the alternative, that her claim was preempted by the federal Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), which seeks to establish uniform interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. According to the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, newly-appointed United States District Court Judge Mark Mastrioanni ruled against the employer on both arguments. Judge Mastrioanni found that the CBA did not contain a “clear and unmistakable” waiver of the plaintiff’s rights under Chapter 151B, the state's employment non-discrimination statute. On the preemption argument, Judge Mastrioanni found that the employee's claim only required consultation with the CBA, not interpretation of the CBA. Therefore, the LMRA did not preempt the employee's claim.

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