​​​​Caselaw Update​:

     In North Am. Composites Co. v. Reich, 2017 WL 1967355 (D. Minn. May 11, 2017) the parties disputed whether an arbitration award should be confirmed. The employment agreement between them included an arbitration clause. After resigning, former employee informed plaintiff (employer) she intended to sue for sexual harassment. Employer reminded her of the arbitration clause. When the employee did not file for arbitration, employer did so.  Employee (defendant) then filed action in California state court. That case was stayed, and the matter went to arbitration in Minnesota which resulted in an award in employer’s favor. Employee sought to vacate the award claiming corruption, fraud or other undue means, and adding the arbitrator exceeded his power. Court confirmed award, noting a court has “no authority to reconsider the merits of an arbitration award, even when the parties allege that it rests on factual errors.” Claims that the arbitrator “disregarded the law” will not support vacating the award. Because the employee’s arguments were “merely disagreements with the arbitrator’s factual and legal analysis” they would not suffice to vacate the award.  

     Our Supreme Court battled (5-2 decision, Peterson v. City of Minneapolis, 892 N.W.2d 824) to an April 12, 2017 opinion in which dictionaries were widely relied upon to determine what is a “dispute resolution process.”  Police officer brought a claim for discrimination that missed the one-year SOL under the Human Rights Act unless his participation in the city’s Respect in the Workplace Policy, which allowed the city to discipline employees or reinstate them after investigation, was an ADR process.  The MHRA tolls the statute if the parties are engaged in a “dispute resolution process” including “arbitration, conciliation, mediation or grievance procedure.”  A Minnesota federal court ruled in 2012 that dispute resolution process requires a third-party neutral, and does not include informal negotiations.  Supreme Court majority ruled that the Workplace Policy was a dispute resolution process because the policy shared “characteristics” of the listed examples.  Dissent argued the policy was not a dispute resolution process because it did not allow parties to submit their positions to a neutral, it did not provide for relief to the complainant, and otherwise it bore no resemblance to the listed ADR processes.


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Thomas D. Jensen

Civil Case Mediator

​​​Thomas D. Jensen's ADR Articles:
Accelerating in Neutral: Building a Successful Mediation Practice, F.T.D. 22 (D.R.I. July 2017)

Promoting a New Generation of Peacemakers, F.T.D. 24 (D.R.I. June 2012)

Strategically Using Alternative Dispute Resolution in Litigation, In-House Def. Q. (D.R.I. Fall 2011)

Mediator Diversity in Civil Litigation, F.T.D. (D.R.I. June 2011)

Making the Case for Directive Mediation, F.T.D. 44 (D.R.I. Aug. 2009) 

Civil Special Masters: Aid in an Era of High Court Caseloads and Low State Budgets, ADR Choices (D.R.I. Spring 2009)

ADR Five Years Later: A Review of the Evidence, Minn. Law. (Apr. 19, 1999)