What is happening in employment law? We will be providing you with quick employment law updates on a bi-monthly basis in a new series called “The Bubbler.” It will let you know what’s what and who’s who in the continually-evolving, ever-important, hard-to-keep-track-of employment law world. The Bubbler delivers current events and other important news to our readers without the time or the interest to piece through the recent legislation, the ever-growing release of regulations and other agency guidance and the lengthy court decisions. We’re your colleagues at the water cooler who tell you just enough to pique your interest (but then provide links to satisfy your curiosity). Enjoy!
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.
The battle between the NLRB and the Fifth Circuit rages on, as the Fifth Circuit again ruled that employers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act when they require employees to sign arbitration agreements containing class/collective action waivers.
The California Supreme Court issued an important decision last week on the enforceability of employment class action waivers included in arbitration agreements. The result: private parties can contract for the waiver of the right to pursue a class action in any forum. The California Supreme Court had considered this question before in 2007 in Gentry v. Superior Court, finding that an employment class action waiver could be struck down on the grounds that it violated public policy or because it was unconscionable. But in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, the Court recognized that recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent now required it to reverse course. In doing so, it made some other noteworthy pronouncements as well.