Welcome to July! As we head deeper into the summer, the employment law world continues to heat up (and we’re not just talking about the record temperatures across the country!). We have rounded up the most recent developments impacting employers here:

The U.S. Supreme Court closed out an epic 2017 term (pun slightly intended) with the issuance of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, in which it held that contractual waivers of class arbitration in employment agreements are enforceable. Our colleague Gil Samberg also wrote about the decision over on our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches. The Court also handed down a significant decision in Janus v. AFSCME, holding that public employees who are not union members cannot be required to pay agency fees to a union even if that union represents them for purposes of collective bargaining. Last but certainly not least, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the bench, effective July 31.

At the state level, both New York and Maryland have recently enacted sweeping legislation in response to the #MeToo movement, which we wrote about here and here. New York employers must ensure that their employment agreements are in compliance with the new law by July 11, 2018. On the heels of the New York Paid Family Leave law, which took effect on January 1, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker just signed into law a new paid family and medical leave program that is even more generous than the New York law. That law also increases the state minimum wage and eliminates premium pay for Sundays and certain holidays. We outline the parameters of the new law here.

In New York City, the bill requiring employers to grant two temporary schedule changes per year takes effect on July 18th. Finally, in response to the bevy of leave laws that have recently been passed throughout the country, we will be debuting a new blog series addressing issues arising from and relating to leaves of absence. The series will include posts on navigating the ADA, performance and benefits issues for employees on leave, and the interplay between federal and state-specific leave laws. Stay tuned for more and as always, do not hesitate to contact your Mintz Levin ELB team with any questions about compliance with these laws.

Wishing our readers a happy and restful 4th of July!!

In our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, Don Davis explores back-to-back decisions by New York’s intermediate appellate court that applied very narrow state law principles permitting vacatur of an arbitration award on public policy grounds to vacate an arbitrator’s award that had reduced the employer-posed penalty of termination to a brief suspension.  In so doing, the court implicitly endorsed the employer’s decision to terminate an employee that it found, after an investigation, to have engaged in sexual harassment.  The court found that the arbitrator’s reduction of the penalty – despite having made findings of fact that supported the employer’s decision – would have operated to undermine the state’s strong public policy against sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a landmark opinion on an important issue to employers, the Supreme Court held yesterday that employers can enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements – leaving employers nationwide asking “what does this decision mean for us?”  This post aims to answer that question.

Continue Reading Arbitration Provisions with Class Action Waivers Are Enforceable…Now What? A Guide for Human Resources Professionals and In-House Counsel on the Practical Implications of this “Epic” Decision

As reported by our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, the Northern District of Illinois recently issued an unusual decision. After finding that both plaintiffs were bound by arbitration agreements with the defendant and after finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were within the scope of the arbitration clauses, it denied defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. See Zoller v. UBS Secs. LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44170 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 9, 2018).

As reported by our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, a federal district court in New York held that an arbitrator could not certify a “class” that included non-appearing members. While neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor various Courts of Appeal have grappled with the viability of a class arbitration award, courts in the Second Circuit are taking the lead in addressing such issues.

As reported by our sister blog, ADR: Advice from the Trenches, the Sixth Circuit determined that an employer’s notice of its mandatory arbitration policy — without more to secure the employee’s knowing assent to this employment term — is not enough to compel arbitration. While this only applies in the Sixth Circuit (for now), it’s an important development in this area of the law.

Mintz Levin continues to be at the forefront of issues related to contractual arbitration provisions, helping clients optimize their dispute resolution and risk mitigation processes. Check out our sister blog’s latest post, which pieces together a top-10 list of issues in-house counsel should consider when crafting these provisions.  

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.

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.

Continue Reading Where Are We With the Enforceability of Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements?