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Richey v. AutoNation, Inc.

Supreme Court of California

January 29, 2015

AVERY RICHEY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
AUTONATION, INC., et al., Defendants and Respondents

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Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC408319, Malcolm H. Mackey, Judge. Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, No. B234711.

Scott O. Cummings for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Office of David J. Duchrow, Duchrow & Piano and David J. Duchrow for California Employment Lawyers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

The deRubertis Law Firm, David M. deRubertis, Helen U. Kim; Pine & Pine and Norman Pine for Consumer Attorneys of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

Snell & Wilmer, Richard A. Derevan, Christopher B. Pinzon, Frank Cronin, Erin Denniston Leach and Todd E. Lundell for Defendants and Respondents.

Fred J. Hiestand for The Civil Justice Association of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents.

Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Werdegar, Corrigan, Liu, JJ., Baxter, J.,[*] and Duarte, J.,[], concurring.

OPINION

[182 Cal.Rptr.3d 646] [341 P.3d 439] CHIN, J.

An employer terminated an employee who was absent on approved medical leave, but engaged in outside employment in violation of company policy. After an 11-day arbitration hearing, the arbitrator relied on

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the federal " honest belief" defense and rejected the employee's claim that the employer violated the employee's right to reinstatement under the Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act (CFRA) (Gov. Code, § § 12945.1, 12945.2) and its federal counterpart, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) (29 U.S.C. § § 2601-2654). The trial [341 P.3d 440] court confirmed the arbitrator's award, but the Court of Appeal vacated the award in the employer's favor.

We granted review to determine whether, in the absence of an express agreement between the parties, courts may review and vacate (or correct) an arbitration award involving both an employee's unwaivable statutory rights and an employer's written policy forbidding outside employment while on leave. We conclude that although the arbitrator may have committed error in adopting a defense untested in our court, any error that may have occurred did not deprive the employee of an unwaivable statutory right because the arbitrator found he was dismissed for violating his employer's written policy prohibiting outside employment while he was on medical leave. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal's judgment.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 2004, defendant Power Toyota Cerritos (Power Toyota), part of the AutoNation, Inc., consortium of automobile dealerships, hired plaintiff Avery Richey (plaintiff) as an at-will employee. Plaintiff received an employment manual noting that outside work while on approved CFRA leave was prohibited. There was also a general understanding at Power Toyota that outside employment of any kind, including self-employment ...


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