Claim for Voilation of Minimum Wages Rejected by a Joint Grievance Committee
Can An Employee Bring a Federal Suit Alleging Voilation of Minimum Wages Provision of FLSA Even Though His Claim Has Been Rejected by a joint Grievance Committee of His Union's CBA ?
In Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System (1981) 450 U.S. 728 101 S. Ct. 1437, 67 L. Ed. 2d 641) (Barrentine), the Supreme Court relied on Gardner-Denver to hold that an employee could bring a federal suit alleging a violation of the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.) (FLSA), even though he had already unsuccessfully submitted a claim based on the same facts to a joint grievance committee under his union's CBA.
The court noted: "Two aspects of national labor policy are in tension in this case.
The first, reflected in statutes governing relationships between employers and unions, encourages the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment through the collective-bargaining process.
The second, reflected in statutes governing relationships between employers and their individual employees, guarantees covered employees specific substantive rights.
A tension arises between these policies when the parties to a collective-bargaining agreement make an employee's entitlement to substantive statutory rights subject to contractual dispute-resolution procedures." ( Barrentine, supra, 450 U.S. at pp. 734-735 101 S. Ct. at p. 1441, 67 L. Ed. 2d at p. 650.)
Relying on Gardner-Denver, the court resolved the tension against a finding of claim preclusion:
". . . . Not all disputes between an employee and his employer are suited for binding resolution in accordance with the procedures established by collective bargaining.
While courts should defer to an arbitral decision where the employee's claim is based on rights arising out of the collective-bargaining agreement, different considerations apply where the employee's claim is based on rights arising out of a statute designed to provide minimum substantive guarantees to individual workers." ( Barrentine, supra, 450 U.S. at p. 737 101 S. Ct. at p. 1443, 67 L. Ed. 2d at p. 651.)
The court held that Gardner-Denver could not be distinguished based on the difference between title VII and the FLSA because both acts were intended to establish fundamental, nonwaivable collective rights for employees. ( Barrentine, supra, 450 U.S. at pp. 738-741 101 S. Ct. at pp. 1443-1445, 67 L. Ed. 2d at pp. 652-654.)