The U.S. Supreme Court just handed employers a huge win in the continuing war over California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), a bounty-hunter statute that deputizes employees to sue on behalf of the state. In yesterday’s Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, decision, the Supreme Court held that employers may compel employees to arbitrate

President Biden is expected to sign into law landmark #MeToo legislation, which allows a plaintiff to elect not to arbitrate covered disputes of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021,” amends the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), by narrowing its scope and applicability. The bill’s passage had bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

Historically, some employers have implemented arbitration programs that require both the employer and its employees to arbitrate most or all types of employment claims, including claims alleging sexual harassment or sexual assault. Largely in response to the #MeToo movement, which began in late 2017, some states passed laws designed to prohibit or restrict employers from requiring employees to arbitrate sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. For example, in New York, employers are prohibited from requiring the arbitration of sexual harassment claims except where inconsistent with federal law. New York’s prohibition on mandatory arbitration in relation to sexual harassment claims went into effect on July 11, 2018, and it has applied to contracts entered into on or after that date. New Jersey and California have enacted similar laws. New Jersey’s law prohibits any provision of an arbitration agreement that waives a substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. This law applies to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or amended on or after March 18, 2019. Further, on October 10, 2019, California enacted a law, which prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign new mandatory arbitration agreements concerning disputes arising under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or California Labor Code.  California’s law applies only to agreements dated January 1, 2020 or after. However, courts have found these statutes to be pre-empted by the FAA.

On February 7, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4445, 335 to 97. Shortly thereafter, on February 10, 2022, the bill passed the Senate in an unrecorded voice vote.

Continue Reading Landmark #MeToo Legislation Allows Employees To Pursue Sexual Harassment & Assault Claims In Court, Rather Than Arbitration

On December 30, 2019, Judge Kimberly Mueller in the Eastern District of California issued a temporary restraining order that enjoined California from enforcing AB 51. AB 51 prohibits employers from requiring, as a condition of employment, employees’ waiver of any right, forum, or procedure for an alleged violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or the California Labor Code. (For more on AB 51, read here).

Continue Reading Stop! In The Name Of The Federal Arbitration Act

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.

Continue Reading Applying Epic Systems, The NLRB Adopts Employer-Friendly Arbitration Stance

This article was originally published on Law360.com.

Three recent decisions arising under the National Labor Relations Act highlight that ambiguity and inattentiveness are the twin banes of labor and employment attorneys. In all three cases, the dispute arose because two personnel policies or approaches overlapped, opening the way for conflicting claims. As these cases demonstrate,

In June, a federal district court in New York ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts a recent state law prohibiting mandatory arbitration agreements in sexual harassment cases. Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC  marks the first time that a federal court has ruled on this issue.

Continue Reading NY Ban On Mandatory Arbitration Of Sexual Harassment Claims Overturned

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

While the benefits of arbitration clauses in employment documents with US employees are highly publicized and well known, arbitration clauses with employees outside of the US (OUS) are much less prevalent due to enforceability issues and administrative hurdles.

Unlike in the US, where arbitration can often be quicker, limit opportunities for appeal, and affords greater confidentiality, this is not always the case OUS.


Continue Reading Arbitration of Employment Claims Globally

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.

Continue Reading US Supreme Court Turns Off The Lights On Coerced Class Arbitration

An update from our neighbors to the north (with thanks to Chris Burkett, partner in our Toronto office):

In January, the Ontario Court of Appeal (in Canada) overturned the lower court’s decision in Heller v. Uber Technologies Inc., 2019 ONCA 1. The Court of Appeal held that an arbitration clause requiring arbitration in the Netherlands of disputes between drivers and Uber to be invalid and unenforceable. Based on the presumption that Uber drivers are employees of Uber, the Court of Appeal found that the arbitration clause was a prohibited contracting out of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
Continue Reading Canadian Court Invalidates Arbitration Clause Requiring Arbitration In Foreign Jurisdiction