Arbitrator’s Decision Finding Just Cause For Discharge Dooms Subsequent Statutory Claims, District Of New Jersey Holds

In Robbins v. U.S. Foodservice, Inc., 2012 WL 3781258 (D.N.J., August 30, 2012), a union employee’s discrimination (NJLAD) and leave law (FMLA and NJFLA) claims were dismissed because her union previously had grieved her termination, an arbitrator had concluded that her termination was for “just cause,” and the New Jersey Superior Court had confirmed the arbitration award denying plaintiff’s grievance. In so ruling, the court agreed with the company’s argument that the plaintiff’s claims were barred under a theory of collateral estoppel (also known as issue preclusion), which precludes a plaintiff from getting two chances to win on the same issue. Here, (1) the parties participated in an arbitration proceeding at which both parties were afforded a full opportunity to present evidence and argument in support of their case; (2) the arbitrator addressed the merits of the case and whether the company had just cause to terminate the plaintiff; (3) the arbitrator determined that the company had just cause to terminate the plaintiff on the grounds that she was dishonest (taking sick leave in order to attend “bike week” in Myrtle Beach); and (4) the New Jersey Superior Court confirmed the arbitration award.

Note: This article was published in the October 2012 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.


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