Bodine v. Cook’s Pest Control, Inc., Case No. 15-13233 (decided July 29, 2016), enforced an arbitration agreement in an employment contract. In that case, the Court dealt with the impact of the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) on the arbitration agreement.
Mr. Bodine was employed by Cook’s Pest Control. His armed forces commitment required him to take leave from work. He contended that his employer discriminated against him because of his military service obligations, which gave him a cause of action under USERRA.
Mr. Bodine filed a lawsuit against Cook’s, but he had an arbitration clause in his employment contract. The arbitration agreement had two provisions relevant to the appeal. First, it provided for a six-month statute of limitations on all claims. Further, it allowed the arbitrator to assess costs and attorney’s fees in a final award. Mr. Bodine contended that those provisions violated rights conferred on him by USERRA and, consequently, invalidated the entire arbitration agreement.
The Eleventh Circuit rejected Mr. Bodine’s contention. It agreed that the two provisions in the arbitration clause conflicted with USERRA. However, the Court concluded that the offending provisions were severable and that, unbound by those two provisions, Mr. Cook must enforce his USERRA rights through arbitration.
This case illustrates the strength of arbitration agreements and how the Court will look for ways to find an arbitration agreement enforceable rather than look for ways to find the agreement unenforceable.
The Opinion is available at http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201513233.pdf
For more information on this topic, contact your Appellate counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.