Monday, January 2, 2012

Receipt of retirement benefits doesn't waive arbitration over termination

          A California Court of Appeal has reversed the lower court's refusal to order arbitration of a claim that San Joaquin County had wrongfully terminated grievant's employment. SEIU Local 1021 v. San Joaquin County. The County had initially agreed to arbitrate the termination grievance. When grievant subsequently applied for and received retirement benefits the County refused to proceed, arguing that the receipt of retirement benefits deprived the arbitrator of jurisdiction. The County also contended that once grievant retired from his job he was no longer an employee under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Union and the County.
        The Court rejected both arguments, concluding "[w]here  a former employee has been terminated, seeking retirement benefits does not result in a voluntary resignation from ... employment". The Court further noted that grievant's election to receive retirement benefits was independent of his interest in continued employment with the County and did not undermine his contractual right to arbitrate his termination.
       Accordingly the Court ordered arbitration of the dispute.

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