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11th Circuit Update: Arbitration, Americans with Disabilities

Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Sys. Council U-4 v. Florida Power & Light Co___ F. 3d ___ (11th Cir. October 2, 2014)

Short Summary: A union appealed a district court’s decision to dismiss a Motion to Compel Arbitration on the basis that the claim was not moot. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the decision and remanded to the lower court.

In Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Sys. Council U-4 v. Florida Power & Light Co., employee Kohl was arrested for grand theft, but the case was later dismissed. Upon learning of Kohl’s arrest, Florida Power & Light Co. (“FPL”) revoked Kohl’s unescorted nuclear access to the nuclear power plant where he worked. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, System Council U-4 (“IBEW”) filed a grievance on behalf of Kohl and then filed a Petition to Compel Arbitration in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. After filing the petition, Kohl’s case was dismissed and his access reinstated. FPL moved to dismiss the Petition to Compel Arbitration, stating that the claim was now moot and the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.   The district court granted the petition. The IBEW appealed asserting that the lower court could not determine whether the grievance was moot without merit. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the IBEW, stating that there were issues concerning back pay and reinstatement. Accordingly, the Court vacated the order to deny the Petition to Compel Arbitration and remanded the case to determine whether FPL’s determination of access rights falls within the collective bargaining agreement.

Parker v. Econ. Opportunity for Savannah-Chatham Cnty. Area, Inc. et. al. ___ F. 3d ___ (11th Cir. October 1, 2014)

Short Summary: A former employee appealed a summary judgment decision in favor of her former employer regarding violations of Title III of the ADA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

In Parker v. Economic Opportunity for Savannah-Chatham County Area, Inc. et al., a former employee appealed the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia’s grant of summary judgment to her former employer, Economic Opportunity for Savannah-Chatham County Area, Inc. (“Economic Opportunity”) regarding her Title III Americans with Disabilities retaliation claim. Parker’s action concerns handicapped parking spaces near Economic Opportunity that are located on a public street. Parker challenged the district court on three grounds: (1) it erred by granting summary judgment because there were disputed issues of fact concerning the actions of Economic Opportunity, (2) it erred because Parker presented direct evidence that she was terminated for opposing unlawful actions, and (3) it erred in granting summary judgment on her ADA retaliation claim arising under the participation clause because Economic Opportunity did not move for summary judgment on that claim.

The Eleventh Circuit held that Parker did not establish a prima facie case of retaliation because she did not engage in a statutorily protected expression. The Court held that the lower court properly granted summary judgment because it was not unlawful for Economic Opportunity to refuse to enforce parking in handicapped spaces located on the public street. Furthermore, the Court held that Economic Opportunity met the requirements of the ADA by enforcing handicapped parking spaces located in its private lot. Next, the Court held that Parker did not establish that she had an objectively reasonable belief that Economic Opportunity’s actions were unlawful because Parker called the police to enforce the parking space rules. Finally, the Eleventh Circuit held that Parker did not establish that she had met the requirements under the Participation clause of the ADA. The Court expounded citing the statute to show that the Participation Clause is triggered when an employee made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the ADA. The Court held that Parker, prior to her termination, she neither filed an ADA violation claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nor assisted another employee with his or her formal ADA claim. Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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