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The Supreme Court's conclusion that a union waiver of employee rights to a federal judicial forum for employment discrimination claims must be clear and unmistakable means that, absent a clear waiver, it is not "appropriate," within the meaning of the provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101 et seq., to find an agreement to arbitrate.
Petitioner Cesar Wright, a longshoreman, was subject to a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) and a Longshore Seniority Plan, both of which contained an arbitration clause. When respondents stevedoring companies and the union refused to employ him following his settlement of a claim for permanent disability benefits for job-related injuries, petitioner filed the present suit, alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The District Court dismissed the case without prejudice because Wright had failed to pursue the arbitration procedure provided by the CBA. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Petitioner filed a writ for certiorari for review of the decision of the lower court.
Would a general arbitration clause in a CBA require an employee to use the arbitration procedure for an alleged violation of the ADA?
The Court granted certiorari and vacated the judgment. The Court found that the petitioner’s statutory claim was not subject to a presumption of arbitrability. According to the Court, a union waiver of employee rights to a federal judicial forum for employment discrimination claims had to be clear and unmistakable, so that absent a clear waiver, it was not "appropriate," within the meaning of the provision of the ADA, to find an agreement to arbitrate. The Court held that the CBA did not contain a clear and unmistakable waiver of the covered employee's rights to a judicial forum for federal claims of employment discrimination. A general arbitration clause in a CBA did not require the employee to use the arbitration procedure for an alleged violation of ADA.