Arbitration Agreements

On January 8, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. strengthening the enforceability of arbitration “delegation clauses.” These clauses have been previously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and allow parties to agree that an arbitrator, rather than a court, will decide the threshold issue of whether a dispute must be arbitrated, as well as the merits of the dispute. The Supreme Court in Henry Schein rejected a doctrine adopted by several federal Circuit Courts of Appeals and the California Court of Appeal, which permitted courts to decline to enforce delegation clauses if the underlying assertion of arbitrability was “wholly groundless.” Under Henry Schein, courts must refer questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator when the parties have agreed to a clear and unmistakable delegation, even if the court believes the claim of arbitrability is frivolous.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Rejects ‘Wholly Groundless’ Exception to Delegation Clauses in Arbitration Agreements

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, companies have been forced to re-examine how they litigate and settle allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Specifically, companies are facing increasing criticism if they compel claims of sexual harassment to private arbitration or force employees who allege sexual harassment to sign settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses, effectively shielding both the company and the alleged sexual harasser from public scrutiny.
Continue Reading #MeToo Changes the Face of Sexual Harassment Litigation for Employers

On Sunday, September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a number of bills that will have a significant impact on litigation and legal counseling in the employment context. Many of the new laws are a response to the traction gained by the “me-too” movement and are summarized herein.
Continue Reading New Wave of Employment Bills Signed into Law

On May 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the legality of arbitration agreements containing class action waivers. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Gorsuch, the Court held that arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings were valid, and neither the Federal Arbitration Act’s (“FAA”) savings clause, nor the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) suggest otherwise.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Enforceability of Mandatory Employment Class Action Waivers

Many employers rely on pre-dispute arbitration agreements to resolve employment litigation in private arbitration rather than in court. However, two recent bipartisan bills introduced in Congress may change the employment litigation landscape.
Continue Reading The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act May Apply To More Than Sexual Harassment

In Esparza v. KS Industries, L.P., 2017 WL 3276363 (2017), the Fifth District Court of Appeal recently clarified the arbitrability of certain claims brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).  Previously, in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014), the California Supreme Court held that PAGA representative actions for civil penalties are not subject to arbitration (the “Iskanian rule”). This decision led to a spate of actions by plaintiffs who signed valid and enforceable arbitration agreements asserting only PAGA claims, in an attempt to circumvent arbitration. This has been a significant hurdle to many employers, who have been forced to defend PAGA-only actions in civil court, despite the fact that their employees signed valid and enforceable arbitration agreements. Esparza offers a potential carve out to Iskanian that employers should be aware of.
Continue Reading Court Of Appeal Holds That Claims To Recover Wages Under Labor Code Section 558 Brought Through The Private Attorneys General Act May Be Arbitrated

On April 6, 2017, in the matter Sharon McGill v. Citibank, N.A., the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an arbitration agreement that waives a statutory right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum, is contrary to California public policy and is therefore unenforceable under California law.  In arriving at its ruling, the Court distinguished between class action waivers and the waiver of the right to public injunctive relief.  The Court held that class actions are a procedural device that enforces substantive law, while the right to public injunctive relief is an unwaivable substantive statutory remedy that the Legislature has expressly made available under certain laws.  Although this is not an employment case, the Court’s holding is important in the employment context because it distinguishes between the waiver at issue in the agreement, which it ruled was unenforceable, and class action waivers, which many employers include in their mandatory arbitration agreements.
Continue Reading In California, The Statutory Right To Seek Public Injunctive Relief Is Unwaivable

Many employers require employees to sign arbitration agreements at the inception of the employment relationship and prior to any disputes, such as part of their new hire packets or as a condition of their employment.  Recently, Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to invalidate such pre-dispute arbitration agreements.
Continue Reading Congress Considers Limiting Pre-dispute Arbitration Agreements in the Employment Context

[UPDATE] On March 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law a Congressional Review Act (“CRA”) resolution repealing the so-called “blacklisting” rule, which would have imposed strict labor reporting and other requirements upon government contractors. This was followed by an Executive Order (“EO”) signed by President Trump the same day, effectively nullifying President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces EO that first called for the blacklisting rule. For additional details regarding the repeal, please see the April 26, 2017 blog article.

On August 25, 2016, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) and Federal Acquisition Regulatory (“FAR”) Council published “Guidance for Executive Order 13673, ‘Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces’” (“final rule”).  Also referred to as the “blacklisting” rule, it imposes strict disclosure guidelines and requires that both prospective and existing contractors – as well as subcontractors – disclose violations of federal labor laws that resulted in administrative merits determinations, civil judgments, or arbitral awards or decisions.  The final rule also requires that contractors and subcontractors disclose specific information to workers each pay period regarding their wages and prohibits contractors from requiring that their workers sign arbitration agreements that encompass Title VII violations and claims of sexual assault or harassment.


Continue Reading Agencies Publish Strict New Reporting Guidelines for Government Contractors

On August 22, 2016, the Ninth Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit in the split amongst U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal on the issue of enforceability of employment arbitration agreements precluding class actions.

The Ninth Circuit, similar to the Seventh Circuit in Lewis v. Epic Sys. Corp., held in 2-1 decision that an employer violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it requires employees to sign an agreement precluding them from pursuing, in any forum, wage-and-hour claims against the employer on a collective basis.  To the contrary, the Fifth Circuit has upheld such arbitration agreements in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. NLRB and Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, finding that class action waivers do not violate the NLRA.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Invalidates Arbitration Agreement