A California Court of Appeal has reversed a ruling against grocery store workers represented by the United Food and Commercial workers who were locked out during a 4½-month labor dispute in 2003 and 2004.
The dispute stemmed from an effort by approximately 8,000 workers at Albertsons and Ralphs grocery stores to obtain unemployment benefits for the time they were locked out.
The state Employment Development Department, finding that the workers had left their jobs over a trade dispute, had denied the workers’ claims for benefits under §1262 of the Unemployment Insurance Code. The California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board upheld that decision in 2004.
The lower court’s ruling held that the workers had not sufficiently argued that the statute of limitations barring recovery of unemployment benefits should be extended.
The three-justice panel of the California Court of Appeal, however, ruled that the workers met the conditions for “equitable tolling,” allowing them to extend the statute of limitations.
According to the court, the workers satisfied the three factors needed to determine whether the statute of limitations may be extended:
- Timely notice to the stores in filing the first claim
- Lack of prejudice to the stores in gathering evidence to defend against the second claim
- Good faith and reasonable conduct by the workers in filing the second claim.