The Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in October on whether class and collective action waivers are enforceable. While employers await the Supreme Court’s decision, other courts continue to weigh in on the matter. Just last week, a New York State appellate court in Gold v. New York Life Ins. Co., 2017 NY Slip Op 05695 (App. Div. 1st Dep’t, July 18, 2017), found itself aligned with those federal circuit courts of appeal invalidating these waivers. Given the continuing disagreement among courts across the nation – both federal and state – as to whether the Federal Arbitration Act’s policy favoring arbitration should trump the National Labor Relations Act’s prohibition on contracts that restrict the rights of employees to engage in collective action, the need for clarity from the Supreme Court is more urgent than ever. Employment Matters will of course continue monitoring these important developments, so please check back in for regular updates.
Our colleagues at the ADR blog have published the first of a series of posts discussing the dilemmas inherent in attempting to resolve class claims through arbitration. In Is ‘Class Arbitration’ an Oxymoron? Mintz Member Gil Samberg considers the challenges of adjudicating class claims, which are based on the rules of civil procedure, through the purely contractual mechanism of commercial arbitration, and notes that the Supreme Court has yet to definitively approve of this approach. For an insightful look at the current state of the law as well as the broader implications of class arbitrations, you can find the post here.
On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue of whether employers may include class/collective action waivers in their arbitration agreements. As we discussed in more detail here, multiple federal appeals courts have split over the issue. This has created a difficult situation for employers and employees, especially where the employer operates in multiple states. By the time the Supreme Court takes up the issue in April, there may be a ninth justice on the bench. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available, but in the meantime, we encourage you to visit our sister blog ADR: Advice from the Trenches and read its latest terrific post: When an Arbitration Clause Sounds Permissive But is Not – Does “May” Really Mean “Must”?
With the 9th Circuit’s late summer anti-class action waiver decision, the circuit split widened over the issue of whether employers can require employees, through an arbitration agreement, to waive their rights to bring class or collective actions against their employer. This issue will almost certainly reach the Supreme Court given the deepening divide and the Court’s previous apparent interest in addressing issues surrounding class action waivers and arbitration agreements.
In a setback to private colleges and universities, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on August 23, 2016 that student assistants have unionization and collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act. In so ruling, the Board reversed its 2004 decision in Brown University, in which it held that graduate students are not employees under the NLRA, and therefore do not have unionization rights. The immediate effect of the new Columbia University holding is that graduate and undergraduate student assistants will be able to unionize. The far-reaching decision has the potential to transform the student assistant-university relationship, as well as the collegiate learning environment.
While graduate student unions are commonplace at many public colleges and universities (as students’ unionization and collective bargaining rights at public institutions are governed by state law), the Columbia decision expands unionization and collective bargaining rights to student assistants at private colleges and universities, including to undergraduate student assistants and to student assistants who receive research funding from external grants. This decision – which fundamentally injects NLRA considerations into the relationship between student and university – has important implications for private colleges and universities and their employment of student assistants.
The United States Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Tyson Foods employees could use representative evidence to establish liability and damages for class certification purposes. The opinion gives the plaintiffs’ class action bar a second victory in the Court’s current term, albeit a far narrower one than many commentators had feared. (We covered the first victory here.) Perhaps, more importantly, the Court sidestepped a seemingly more controversial issue regarding whether a class may include uninjured class members. That issue will have to be decided another day. We analyze the Tyson Foods opinion below.
Continue Reading Taking an Evidentiary Approach, the Supreme Court Rules that Employees Can Use Representative Samples to Establish Classwide Liability and Damages, But It Leaves Open Question of Whether Classes Can Include Uninjured Class Members
Is the pick-off strategy to moot class actions still alive in the Southern District of New York? Possibly.
Last summer the Second Circuit issued an important decision that identified the proper test for determining whether an employer properly classified an individual as an unpaid intern. The decision was a victory for employers because the nature of the test required courts to utilize a highly-individualized analysis of each intern’s experience, and therefore, it did not necessarily lend itself to class action treatment. On rehearing, the Second Circuit has now amended this decision to clarify that the test is highly context-specific rather than dependent on the individualized experiences of each intern.
Last month, we wrote about the Supreme Court’s opinion in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, in which the Court ruled that “an unaccepted Rule 68 Offer of Judgment for complete relief does not moot a plaintiff’s individual and class action claims.” While that decision was welcome news and remains welcome news for employees because it all but eliminated the employer-favored named plaintiff “pick-off” strategy, the Supreme Court did appear to leave open the possibility that employers could still pick off a named plaintiff in other ways: by either actually paying them the amounts allegedly owed, or similarly, by depositing the money with the court to be released to the plaintiff upon dismissal of the action. Just weeks later however, a New York Federal Court addressed this residual issue – the result: more welcome news for employees.
An unaccepted Rule 68 Offer of Judgment for complete relief does not moot a plaintiff’s individual and class action claims said the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The decision in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez is welcome news for employees and the class action bar, but it does not necessarily foreclose a “pick off” strategy often used by employers to head off class actions before they materialize. Like it did in Genesis Healthcare nearly three years ago, the Supreme Court only went so far with its analysis, and this time in Gomez, while effectively ending the Rule 68 method, it left open the possibility that employers could pick off named plaintiffs by actually paying them the amounts allegedly owed.