California Supreme Court Continues to Love Arbitration! (Not)

In its latest installment of "let's silently kill mandatory arbitration," the California Supreme Court (by Justice Moreno, writing for a 4-3 majority), decided that courts may vacate arbitration awards in FEHA or other statute-based claims merely when the arbitrator makes a legal error that results in a ruling in favor of the employer without a "hearing on the merits."

Will arbitrators ever grant motions for summary judgment now that a court will review the decision for "legal error"? They'll get right on that. Here's the money quote:
We therefore hold that when, as here, an employee subject to a mandatory employment arbitration agreement is unable to obtain a hearing on the merits of his FEHA claims, or claims based on other unwaivable statutory rights, because of an arbitration award based on legal error, the trial court does not err in vacating the award. Stated in other terms, construing the [California Arbitration Act] in light of the Legislature’s intent that employees be able to enforce their right to be free of unlawful discrimination under FEHA, an arbitrator whose legal error has barred an employee subject to a mandatory arbitration agreement from obtaining a hearing on the merits of a claim based on such right has exceeded his or her powers within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.2, subdivision (a)(4), and the arbitrator’s award may properly be vacated. (See Armendariz, supra, 24 Cal.4th at pp. 106-107.)
To emphasize: this holding does not authorize court review for an arbitrator's mere legal errors when a "hearing on the merits" has occurred. In this case, the arbitrator decided the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. That, of course, is not a "merits" argument.

The case is Pearson Dental Supplies v. Superior Court (Turcios) and the opinion is here.