Butler v. The Vons Companies, Inc., 140 Cal. App. 4th 943 (2006)

While working as a stock clerk for Vons, Sheldon Butler signed a “Compromise and Release Settlement Agreement” arising from an altercation that Butler had with a co-employee. Approximately two years later, Butler filed unrelated claims alleging employment discrimination and violation of Business & Professions Code § 17200, and Vons sought to rely upon the Release to bar Butler’s claims. The trial court granted Vons’ motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the scope of the waiver contained in the Release was ambiguous. The “principal source of ambiguity” was that there were three parties to the Release – Vons, Butler and Butler’s union. (The reason for the union’s participation was that the union had filed, pursued and resolved the grievance that arose from the altercation that was the subject of the initial dispute.) The Court concluded “as a broad general proposition, it does not necessarily follow that the settlement of a labor grievance between a union and an employer is intended to extend to personal claims of the employee.” Cf. Californians for Disability Rights v. Mervyn’s, LLC, 39 Cal. 4th 223 (2006) (Proposition 64 amendments to the Unfair Competition Law apply to pending cases).