An employee brought an action against her former employer for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that she was terminated either because of her race or in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination. The case was stayed to allow the parties to arbitrate the employee’s claims pursuant to an arbitration agreement contained in her employment contract, and the arbitrator ruled in favor of the employer. Thus, the employee moved to vacate the arbitration award on grounds of fraud due to the employer’s failure to produce e-mails from her manager during the discovery phase of the arbitration, and employer moved to confirm the award. A district court vacated the award, and thus the employer appealed to the Fifth Circuit.
Trinidad Suyapa Barahona was a salesperson at a Dillard’s store until she was terminated by the store manager. Ms. Barahona believed that she was terminated in violation of Title VII, and thus brought suit against Dillard’s, alleging that she was terminated either because of her race or in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination. Barahona v. Dillard’s, Inc., 376 Fed. Appx. 395, 397 (5th Cir. 2010). In Barahona’s employment contract with Dillard’s, there was an arbitration agreement, so the district court, with the parties’ consent, stayed her case to allow the parties to arbitrate her claims. During the arbitration proceedings, the parties conducted discovery, which included depositions and document requests, and the parties participated in a three-day arbitration hearing where they were given the opportunity to present their evidence and arguments.
On the third day of the hearing, the store manager appeared and testified as a witness. Ms. Barahona’s counsel questioned the store manager on a number of matters, including whether he ever communicated via e-mail with any Dillard’s employee regarding Ms. Barahona. Mr. Broussard answered, “Yes.” Id. at 398. Dillard’s, however, had not produced the e-mails during the discovery phase of the arbitration. Despite this, the arbitrator ruled in favor of Dillard’s, finding that Ms. Barahona did not carry her burden of proof on her discrimination and retaliation claims.
After the arbitrator announced his findings, Ms. Barahona moved the district court to vacate the arbitration award due to Dillard’s failure to produce the e-mails. After Ms. Barahona moved to vacate, Dillard’s produced the e-mails and argued that the contents of the e-mails showed that vacating was unwarranted. Dillard’s also moved to have the arbitration award confirmed. The district court initially chose not to vacate the arbitration award and instead remanded the case back to the arbitrator for reconsideration in light of the newly produced e-mails. Id. at 399. The arbitrator refused to reconsider the arbitration award, finding that he lacked jurisdiction to reconsider it. After the arbitrator refused to reconsider the award, the district court granted Ms. Barahona’s motion to vacate.
On appeal, the Fifth Circuit found that the district court erred in vacating Dillard’s arbitration award. The reason being that the facts concerning whether or not the alleged “non-production fraud” was discovered during the arbitration hearing are undisputed, further development of the record would not alter the result. Thus, the district court’s order vacating the arbitration award was reversed, and the case was remanded with instructions to enter an order confirming the arbitration award.