Class & Collective Actions

Ten years from now there may well be no more Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) class actions. The law, like the rest of life, is not immune from disruptive innovations. In our own lifetime, we have seen disruptive innovations from chemical photography to digital photography, from personal computers to smart phones, and from snail

In July, we reported that a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit withdrew its holding in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court—the landmark California Supreme Court decision that makes it harder for companies to rely on independent contractors—applies retroactively. Rather than answering the question of Dynamexs retroactivity, the Court stated its intent to file an order certifying that question.

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As previously detailed here, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Epic Systems decision established that requiring employees to waive their right to pursue collective or class actions does not violate the National Labor Relations Act’s “catchall” protection—the right to engage in “concerted activity”—and courts must enforce arbitration agreements as written.

The Supreme Court not only confirmed the legality of class action waivers under the Federal Arbitration Act, but it also narrowly construed the NLRA’s catchall provision as focused on the right to organize unions and bargain collectively in the workplace.

The Court’s holding that the right to engage in such “concerted activities” does not guarantee collective or class action procedures underpins a recent NLRB decision concerning issues of first impression: imposing and requiring as a condition for continued employment a new class action waiver rule in response to collective action.


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As detailed in prior posts, in January, the Illinois Supreme Court held that a plaintiff need not plead an actual injury beyond a per se statutory violation to state a claim for statutory liquidated damages or injunctive relief under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). While recent decisions applying BIPA have been largely Illinois-based, the Ninth Circuit recently applied BIPA in Patel v. Facebook to affirm a lower court’s ruling that plaintiffs in the ongoing Facebook BIPA class action alleged a concrete injury-in-fact to confer Article III standing and that the class was properly certified.

The Ninth Circuit is the first federal circuit court to conclude that a plaintiff alleging a BIPA violation has standing for purposes of Article III of the US Constitution. The ruling makes it easier for plaintiffs to certify BIPA class actions, within and outside of Illinois. 
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Congratulations and special thanks to Lisa Brogan (Chair), Editor, and Contributors James Baker, Jordan Faykus, and Jenna Neumann for their contributions to the 2019 Edition of The ABA Business Law Section, Recent Developments In Business and Corporate Litigation; Chapter 20: ERISA.

Covered topics include:

  • US Supreme Court on church plan exemptions;
  • The standard of review

On July 10, 2019, the California Senate Labor Committee voted in favor of Assembly Bill (AB 5). As we previously reported (see HERE), AB 5 would make it harder for companies to rely on independent contractors because it presumes a worker is an employee unless a hiring entity passes a difficult three-part test. Supporters

Baker McKenzie’s Mike Leggieri and Robin Samuel were recently interviewed on how best to avoid class arbitration in light of the US Supreme Court April 2019 Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela decision.

In Lamps Plus, the Supreme Court held that when an arbitration agreement is ambiguous on the availability of class arbitration, courts

As we previously reported, in January, in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the Illinois Supreme Court held that a plaintiff need not plead an actual injury beyond a per se statutory violation to state a claim for statutory liquidated damages or injunctive relief under the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA).

(By way of reminder, the Illinois BIPA prohibits gathering biometric data such as fingerprints without notice and consent. It also requires data collectors adopt a written policy and a destruction policy for data which is no longer required.)

In the wake of Rosenbach, dozens more class actions have been filed in Illinois state courts. Following Rosenbach,plaintiffs can seek injunctive relief and statutory penalties under the BIPA on a class-wide basis. Despite the flurry of activity by the plaintiff’s bar over the past several years, Illinois courts have only recently started addressing such claims. The rulings since Rosenbach demonstrate a strong commitment not to deviate from the Illinois Supreme Court’s holding.
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In last Thursday’s Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising, the Ninth Circuit made several impactful findings related to the infamous Dynamex decision:

  1. Aligning with several state court decisions supporting retroactivity, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Dynamex’s ABC test applies retroactively.
  2. It also applied Dynamex to a multi-level franchise structure, expanding the test beyond the independent contractor context.
  3. Last, the Court issued guidance to the district court on remand reaffirming the difficulty of “passing” the ABC test.


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Last Wednesday, the US Supreme Court issued yet another pro-employer arbitration decision.

In a 5-4 split, the Supreme Court held in Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela that a party cannot be compelled to submit to a class arbitration (as opposed to the arbitration of individual claims) unless the arbitration agreement explicitly authorizes class proceedings in arbitration.

In doing so, the Supreme Court reiterated two key aspects of its Federal Arbitration Act jurisprudence:

  1. Arbitration is a matter of consent, not coercion; and
  2. Class arbitration is fundamentally different than the traditional individualized arbitration envisioned by the FAA.

Because, according to the majority opinion, class arbitration so fundamentally changes the nature of arbitration, a party can only be forced to litigate class claims in arbitration under the FAA if there is a contractual basis for concluding that the party agreed.


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