California has long been considered one of the most – if not the most – protective states of employee rights.  This continues to ring true, as the legislature has proposed another law aimed at prohibiting employers from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.   In essence, Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), would prevent employers from requiring their employees to bring all employment related claims, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour claims, in arbitration instead of state or federal court.
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In a recent case, Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc., the California Court of Appeal held that employers cannot require employees to arbitrate their representative claims under the California Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Labor Code § 2699 et seq., without the State’s consent.
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In a rare win for plaintiffs seeking to avoid arbitration, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a trucking company’s attempt to compel arbitration in a driver’s proposed minimum wage class action.  The Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act’s exemption for interstate transportation workers applies not only to employees, but also to those classified as independent contractors. 
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The Supreme Court once again has shown its strong preference for enforcing the terms of arbitration agreements as written by the parties.  In Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer & White Sales Inc., Justice Kavanaugh’s first written opinion, the Court held that when an arbitration agreement delegates the threshold question of arbitrability to an arbitrator, the arbitrator, not a court, should decide the question, even if it is clear to a court that the dispute is not covered by the arbitration agreement. 
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The United States Supreme Court held this past Term in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that class action waivers in arbitration agreements do not violate the National Labor Relations Act.  In the wake of Epic Systems, courts have found that class action waivers are likewise permissible under the FLSA.  These cases make clear that class action waivers are here to stay.
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The U.S. Supreme Court voted to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc.  The Court is expected to decide whether workers can pursue their claims through class-wide arbitration when the underlying arbitration agreement is silent on the issue.  The case could have wide-reaching consequences for employers who use arbitration agreements.
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The United States Supreme Court has granted consolidated review of three cases to determine whether arbitration agreements that waive employees’ rights to participate in a class action lawsuit against their employer are unlawful. The Court’s decision to address the uncertainty surrounding class action waivers of employment claims follows a circuit split last year in which the Fifth and Eighth circuits upheld such waivers and the Seventh and Ninth circuits found that such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act. Given the increasingly widespread use of class action waivers by employers to stem costly class and collective actions, the high court’s ruling is likely to have a significant nationwide impact.
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The Ninth Circuit has joined both the Sixth and Fifth circuits in holding that USERRA claims are subject to arbitration pursuant to an employee’s agreement to arbitrate employment related claims. See Ziober v. BLB Resources, Inc., 2016 WL 5956733 (9th Cir. Oct. 14, 2016). In doing so, the Ninth Circuit, a traditionally pro-employee circuit, has assuaged any fear of uncertainty that employers may have had with respect to their rights to compel arbitration of USERRA claims.
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