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Hunter v. Earthgrains Co. Bakery

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
281 F.3d 144 (4th Cir. 2002)


Facts

Pamela A. Hunter represented the employees (plaintiffs) of Earthgrains Co. Bakery (Earthgrains) (defendant) in a class action lawsuit for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Earthgrains removed the case to United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. Earthgrains argued that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) required arbitration of the dispute. The court granted summary judgment in part on that basis, over the plaintiffs’ claim that the CBA did not apply to federal statutory discrimination claims. The court then issued a sua sponte order requiring Hunter and her co-counsel to show cause why they should not be sanctioned under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) for frivolously asserting that the CBA did not apply, despite a ruling by the circuit appellate court to the contrary. Austin v. Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., 78 F.3d 875 (4th Cir. 1996). Because the order was sua sponte, Hunter was not permitted to withdraw or amend the filings under the rule’s 21-day safe harbor provision. Before the court ruled, the United States Supreme Court held that a general arbitration clause under a CBA applied to employees’ federal employment discrimination claims only if there was “a clear and unmistakable waiver” of those rights. Wright v. Universal Mar. Serv. Corp., 525 U.S. 70 (1998). Yet, the court sanctioned Hunter by suspending her from practicing before the court for five years and reprimanding her co-counsel. Hunter appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (King, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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