SEIU v. Los Robles Reg'l Med Ctr.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 12-03-2015
  • Case #: 13-55672
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Senior Circuit Court Judge Parker and Circuit Judge Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

In order for the statute of limitations to begin running under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, the employer must communicate an “unequivocal, express rejection of the union’s request for arbitration.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Los Robles Regional Medical Center (Medical Center) were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (Agreement). The Agreement provided for a three-step resolution process. If the issue is not resolved at earlier meetings, Step Three provides an arbitration option, which the union may request in writing. Following the three step process, on January 17, 2012, SEIU took Step Three and notified the Medical Center of its arbitration request. The Medical Center did not respond until June 22, 2012, when it stated that the Medical Center “had not changed its position and would not arbitrate.” The union filed a Petition to Compel Arbitration. Claims under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §185 (“Section 301”), have a six-month statute of limitations. The district court identified December 2, 2011, as the date the Medical Center rejected SEIU’s request to arbitrate, finding the statute of limitations ran on June 2, 2012. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that in order for a Section 301 statute of limitations to start running, the employer must communicate an “unequivocal, express rejection of the union’s request for arbitration.” The panel found that until SEIU sent a request for arbitration on January 17, 2012, the parties were engaged in the early grievance processes. The panel held that the June 22, 2012, letter was the Medical Center’s express rejection of the request for arbitration, and SEIU had filed its Petition within the six-month statute of limitations. Finding the National Labor Relations Act 29 U.S.C. §158(d) codified an employer’s duty of good faith, the panel held the Medical Center’s five-month delay was in bad faith, as it took almost the entire statute of limitations period. The panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment and vacated its order dismissing the petition. REVERSED in Part, REMANDED in Part, and VACATED in Part.

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