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Jock

Jock

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Published by employmentlawyer
Arbitrator's decision entitled to much deference
Arbitrator's decision entitled to much deference

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Published by: employmentlawyer on Jul 14, 2011
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10-3247-cvJock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers Inc.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALSF
OR THE
S
ECOND
C
IRCUIT
_____________________August Term, 2010(Argued: February 9, 2011 Decided: July 1, 2011)Docket No. 10-3247-cv_____________________L
ARYSSA
J
OCK
,
 
C
HRISTY
C
HADWICK
,
 
M
ARIA
H
OUSE
,
 
D
ENISE
M
ADDOX
,
 
L
ISA
M
C
C
ONNELL
,G
LORIA
P
AGAN
,
 
J
UDY
R
EED
,
 
L
INDA
R
HODES
,
 
N
INA
S
HAHMIRZADI
,
 
L
EIGHLA
S
MITH
,
 
M
ARIE
W
OLF
,
 
D
AWN
S
OUTO
-C
OONS
, and all others similarly situated,
Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellants
,J
ACQUELYN
B
OYLE
,
 
L
ISA
F
OLLETT
,
 
K
HRISTINA
R
ODRIGUEZ
,
 
K
ELLY
C
ONTRERAS
,
Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants,
V
.—S
TERLING
J
EWELERS
I
NC
.
 Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellee
._____________________Before:W
INTER
,
 
P
OOLER
,
 
and H
ALL
,
 
Circuit Judges
._____________________Plaintiffs, a group of retail sales employees of defendant Sterling Jewelers, Inc.’s national jewelry chain stores, appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern
 
2District of New York (Rakoff,
 J.
) vacating an arbitration award on the ground that the arbitratorhad exceeded her authority in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp.
, __ U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 1758 (2010). We hold that the districtcourt, rather than examining whether the arbitrator had exceeded her authority under theprecedent of this circuit, improperly substituted its own interpretation of the parties’ arbitrationagreement for that of the arbitrator’s to conclude that the arbitrator had reached an incorrectdetermination that the parties’ arbitration agreement did not prohibit class arbitration. We,therefore, reverse the judgment of the district court vacating the arbitration award and remandwith instructions to confirm the award.R
EVERSED AND
R
EMANDED
.Judge Winter dissents in a separate opinion._____________________J
OSEPH
M.
 
S
ELLERS
, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC, Washington,DC, (Jenny R. Yang and Kalpana Kotagal, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & TollPLLC, Thomas Warren, Thomas A. Warren Law Offices, P.L., and SamSmith, Burr & Smith, LLP
on the brief 
)
 for Plaintiffs-Counter- Defendants-Appellants.
G
ERALD
L.
 
M
AATMAN
,
 
J
R
.,
 
Seyfarth Shaw LLP, New York, NY, (DavidBennet Ross and Daniel B. Klein, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Stephen S.Zashin, Zashin & Rich Co., L.P.A.,
on the brief 
)
 for Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellee
._____________________H
ALL
,
Circuit Judge
:Plaintiffs, a group of retail sales employees of defendant Sterling Jewelers, Inc.’s national jewelry chain stores, appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the SouthernDistrict of New York (Rakoff,
 J.
) vacating an arbitration award on the ground that the arbitrator
 
3had exceeded her authority in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp.
, __ U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 1758 (2010). The issue presented bythis appeal is whether a district court has the authority to vacate an arbitration award where itbelieves that the arbitrator improperly interpreted the terms of an arbitration agreement. Becausethe district court did not undertake the appropriate inquiry—whether, based on the parties’submissions or the arbitration agreement, the arbitrator had the authority to reach an issue, notwhether the arbitrator decided the issue correctly—and instead substituted its own legal analysisfor that of the arbitrator’s, we reverse the judgment of the district court. Because we find that thearbitrator acted within her authority to reach an issue properly submitted to her by the parties andreached her decision by analyzing the terms of the agreement in light of applicable law, theaward should not have been vacated. We remand with instructions to confirm the award.
I. Background
In May 2005, plaintiff Laryssa Jock filed a discrimination suit with the EqualEmployment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against her employer Sterling Jewelers, Inc.(“Sterling”), alleging that she and other female workers were being paid less because of theirgender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e)
et seq.
, andthe Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Eighteen other female employees filed charges againstSterling before the EEOC. Jock and the other employees simultaneously initiated disputeresolution procedures pursuant to their employment contract, which mandated a three-stepalternative dispute resolution program, known as RESOLVE. Step One of the RESOLVEprogram requires the employee to notify Sterling of her complaint in writing, and includereferences to any supporting evidence. Sterling then makes a determination with respect to the

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