In Gherardi v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. (11th Cir., No. 18-18131, 9/17/2020), Gherardi, an investment advisor for Citigroup Global Markets (“Citi”) brought claims in arbitration against Citi for wrongful discharge. An arbitration panel awarded him nearly $4 million in damages without making any specific findings. Citi filed suit in federal district court to set aside the arbitration award, arguing the arbitrators exceeded their authority by awarding damages to an at-will employee. The district court agreed with City and vacated the award. The 11th Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment. The court reasoned that the parties had agreed to arbitrate all employment claims, and under the Federal Arbitration Act, the arbitrators had authority to decide the merits of the dispute. The Court held Citi does not get “a mulligan in federal court because it identifies a possible legal error in arbitration” and the district court had erred in substituting its judgment for that of the arbitrators. A dissenting judge wrote that the arbitration award was properly vacated because the arbitrators awarded damages on a claim for relief not available to at-will employees.
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