A divided federal appellate court concluded that an arbitration panel did not exceed its powers when it purportedly erred in interpreting the underlying arbitration agreement, and therefore, there were no grounds for reversal of the arbitration award. ABA Litigation Section leaders say that the case illustrates the difficulty of overturning an arbitration award, and serves as a reminder that parties should carefully review their arbitration agreements for clarity and consistency.
Employer Fires Employee Who Threatens Arbitration
Gherardi v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. involved a high-performing broker and investment advisor who allegedly engaged in abusive behavior toward colleagues. The company issued a “final warning” letter reprimanding the employee, which the employee challenged five months later. The company then fired the employee.
The former employee initiated arbitration. He asserted claims for defamation, wrongful termination in violation of an anti-retaliation provision of the applicable arbitration policy, and wrongful termination in violation of “the common law of securities arbitration, which provides that registered persons are not at-will employees.” An employment agreement provided that he was an at-will employee. The employee handbook had an arbitration policy which also expressly prohibited retaliation against employees who filed arbitration claims.
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