Hobby Lobby Stores and Individual Grievant

115 Lab. Arb. Rep. 956 (2001)

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Hobby Lobby Stores and Individual Grievant

Labor Arbitration
115 Lab. Arb. Rep. 956 (2001)

Facts

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (Hobby Lobby) (defendant) employed a manager (plaintiff) in one of its stores. Hobby Lobby corporate officials began receiving two categories of complaints against the manager: (1) that the store he managed was disorderly and (2) that he was treating employees poorly. After an inspection that revealed poor store conditions, the conditions improved. But after an employee submitted another complaint regarding the manager, Hobby Lobby terminated the manager’s employment. The manager, who was of Hispanic origin, claimed that he was terminated because of his national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The manager claimed that other non-Hispanic managers were simply demoted instead of terminated and that he had been subjected to comments about his national origin. An employee handbook provided that any employment complaints would be submitted to arbitration. The manager also claimed that this handbook was a binding contract that altered the at-will-employment presumption. Under the handbook, employees were to receive written notice of discipline before termination. But, according to the manager, he did not receive such notice, in violation of the contractually binding handbook. Hobby Lobby responded that the manager had failed to make a prima facie case of discrimination and that the complaints against him were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for his termination. Regarding the handbook, Hobby Lobby noted that the handbook itself expressly stated that it was not to be construed as a contract and that it reserved to Hobby Lobby the right to terminate an employee without any prior warning. Consistent with the handbook, the parties submitted the matter to arbitration.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Phillips, Arbitrator)

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