Tuesday, April 8, 2008

PERB Recognizes Doctrine of Judicial Estoppel

Trustees of the California State University (PERB Dec. No. 1949-H) (Issued on 3/24/08)

The doctrine of “judicial estoppel” prevents a party from advocating a position in a legal proceeding that is contrary to a position taken previously in the same or some earlier proceeding. In the area of labor & employment law, judicial estoppel is often applied in situations involving disabled employees. A typical example involves an employee who claims he or she cannot perform the functions of a job when applying for disability benefits but asserts a contrary position when applying for a reasonable accommodation or other job benefit. Depending on the specific facts of the situation, the courts have applied the doctrine of judicial estoppel to prevent the employee from asserting contrary positions.

This case involved a long-standing dispute between CSU and APC over merit pay. The dispute was submitted to arbitration in which APC prevailed. APC then had the award confirmed in superior court. After CSU made payments to unit employees, APC filed an “Acknowledgement of Satisfaction of Judgment” confirming that the judgment had been satisfied in full.

Thereafter, APC filed an unfair practice charge with PERB alleging that CSU should have increased employee base salaries instead of making one-time payments. In rejecting APC’s contentions, PERB relied on the doctrine of judicial estoppel. In short, PERB found APC’s unfair practice charge to be inconsistent with APC’s acknowledgement in superior court that the judgment had been satisfied in full. Accordingly, PERB dismissed the complaint.