NurseIn Willis v. Prime Healthcare Services, ___ Cal.App.4th ___  (November 14, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Five) reversed the order of the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Judge Wiley) denying defendant’s motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s class action claims for unpaid minimum wages.

Plaintiff was an hourly clerk at defendant hospital who claimed that she was not paid for all of the hours she worked because the system used by defendant to calculate payroll systematically computed less total hours than the actual time she spent on the job.  Specifically, the system unfairly “rounded” the total time worked to a tenth of an hour, resulting in unpaid time. As a result, plaintiff was not paid minimum wages for all the hours she worked and also received inaccurate wage statements.  Consequently, plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and all other hourly employees who were not paid adequately due to defendant’s faulty payroll system. Defendant moved to compel arbitration and dismiss plaintiff’s claims on the ground that plaintiff had signed an arbitration agreement when she was first hired by defendant’s predecessor in interest. In response, plaintiff, who was a member of the SEIU health care workers union during her entire employment, argued that the collective bargaining agreement between her union and defendant was inconsistent with the individual arbitration agreement and, therefore, rendered the latter unenforceable.  The trial court agreed and denied defendant’s motion.  Defendant appealed.

The appellate court disagreed with the trial court. The court first noted that the Federal Arbitration Act controlled the enforceability of the individual arbitration agreement and related standing issues. “Thus, if there is no inconsistency in the two agreements, the arbitration provision in the individual agreement must be enforced.”  The court then went on to conclude that the collective bargaining agreement and individual arbitration agreement were not inconsistent.