Arbitration

Court Rules Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Retaliation Claims Are Arbitrable

We have previously written about how Dodd-Frank retaliation cases are a mixed bag for employers and about the Supreme Court’s expansion of Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) Whistleblower protections.  A new decision from the Wisconsin District Court is another mixed win for employers who want to enforce arbitration agreements in Dodd-Frank and SOX retaliation cases.  In a case of first impression in the Seventh Circuit, Wussow v. Bruker Corporation., No. 16-cv-444-wmc, 2017 WL 2805016 (W.D. Wis. June 25, 2017), the district court held that while arbitration of SOX whistleblower retaliation claims cannot be compelled, a similar cause of action for whistleblower retaliation under Dodd-Frank can be. READ MORE

Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument in October on Enforceability of Employment Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

In January, we reported that the Supreme Court granted review of three conflicting Court of Appeal decisions to settle the question of whether an agreement requiring that employees resolve employment-related disputes through individual arbitration violates the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).

Last week, the Supreme Court set oral argument for October 2, 2017 to resolve the circuit split on whether mandatory class action waivers violate the NLRA. The Fifth, Second and Eight Circuits rejected the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) position that class action waivers unlawfully interfere with employees’ NLRA rights to engage in concerted activity. See Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, 808 F.3d. 1013 (5th Cir. 2015); Cellular Sales of Missouri, LLC v. NLRB, 824 F.3d 772 (8th Cir. 2016); Patterson v. Raymours Furniture Co., Inc., 2016 WL 4598542 (2d Cir. Sept. 2, 2016).  The Ninth and Seventh Circuits however, held that an arbitration agreement precluding class actions violates the NLRA and is not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). See Morris v. Ernst & Young, 834 F. 3d 975 (9th Cit. 2016) Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 823 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir. 2016).  The Ninth Circuit’s opinion distinguishes mandatory class action waivers from those agreements that permit employees to opt-out.

In June, Ernst & Young, Murphy Oil and Epic Systems filed their opening briefs with the Supreme Court, requesting that the Court affirm the Fifth Circuit’s decision and reject the Seventh Circuit’s decision. The companies argued that the FAA requires enforcement of class action waivers because it requires enforcement of agreements to arbitrate according to their terms and the NLRA’s provisions protecting employees’ right to act in concert do not override the FAA. The U.S. Department of Justice filed one of 17 amicus curiae briefs last month in support of the enforceability of class action waivers.  The Department of Justice’s argument that the NLRB’s position contradicts the FAA is especially significant given its previous contrary position under the Obama administration.

DOJ Flips the Switch on Class Waivers in Arbitration Agreements, Signaling Possible Changes to Come

Arbitration agreement form on an office table DOJ Flips the Switch on Class Waivers in Arbitration Agreements, Signaling Possible Changes to Come

On Friday, June 16, 2017, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief reflecting a change of heart when it comes to the enforceability of class waivers in arbitration agreements.  In an unprecedented move, President Trump’s acting solicitor general, Jeffrey B. Wall, said his office had “reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion” as the Obama administration in a set of consolidated cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA Inc. (Docket Nos. 16-285, 16-300, and 16-307).

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It’s Smooth Sailing for a Shipping Company After Ninth Circuit Arbitration Victory

Last month, the Ninth Circuit issued a notable opinion addressing the enforceability of arbitration agreements in Poublon v. C.H. Robinson Co., 846 F.3d 1251 (9th Cir. 2017), mandate issued (Feb. 24, 2017).  In Poublon, the employee filed a class action even though she signed a dispute resolution agreement that prohibited representative actions and required her to mediate and arbitrate all other claims.  The court evaluated the agreement to determine if it was unconscionable under California law, which looks at both procedural and substantive unconscionability on a sliding scale.  Although the court held that a few provisions were substantively unconscionable, the court severed and reformed the offending provisions and largely upheld the dispute resolution agreement. READ MORE

Uber Rolls Along, Despite Driver Challenges to its Arbitration Agreement

Companies operating in the “on-demand” or “gig economy” have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, as emerging technologies and shifts in consumer tastes have buoyed their growth. These companies span a cross-section of industries (transportation, food delivery, lodging) but have one thing in common: each aims to deliver traditional services more efficiently by connecting consumers directly with service providers.

But as we all know by now, success often begets legal challenges. Take Uber, for example.  The company has faced a thicket of litigation in recent years, most notably related to the question of whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors.

Like many companies in today’s economy, Uber has implemented an arbitration policy as a way to efficiently resolve disputes. Below we recap some of the developments in this area and preview some legal issues that companies will want to monitor in the months ahead. READ MORE

BREAKING DEVELOPMENT: Supreme Court to Rule on Enforceability of Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

In August of 2016, we reported that the Ninth Circuit created a deeper circuit-split on whether class action waivers in arbitration agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) with its decision in Morris v. Ernst & Young LLP.

As expected, the Supreme Court granted review today of three of the conflicting Court of Appeals decisions. It granted review of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Murphy Oil USA, Inc. v. NLRB, 808 F.3d 1013 (5th Cir. 2015). The Fifth Circuit rejected the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) position that class action waivers unlawfully interfere with employees’ NLRA rights to engage in concerted activity, agreeing with the Second and Eighth Circuits. The Ninth and Seventh Circuits, on the other hand, adopted the NLRB’s position that class action waivers violate the NLRA.

The Supreme Court also granted review in Morris v. Ernst & Young, 834 F.3d 975 (9th Cir. 2016) and Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 823 F.3d 1147 (7th Cir. 2016). The Seventh Circuit held that an arbitration agreement precluding collective arbitration or collective action violates section 7 of the NLRA and is unenforceable under the FAA. The Ninth Circuit agreed and concluded that compulsory class action waivers violate sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA by limiting workers’ rights to act collectively, noting in footnote 4 that agreements containing an “opt-out” clause for pursuing class claims do not violate the NLRA.

All three cases have been consolidated and will be argued together.

 

Arbitration in Employment Sea Change?: Ninth Circuit Holds Mandatory Class Action Waivers Unlawful

Can employers still require employees to sign arbitration agreements with class action waivers as a condition of employment?  Last week, the Ninth Circuit became the second appellate court to adopt the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) position that class action waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in Morris v. Ernst & Young LLP.

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Final Fair Pay Rules Are Here: Contractors Face Complex Requirements and Challenges with New Reporting Obligations

The federal government released the final regulations implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order (“EO” hereafter) this week.  The regulatory package contains two parts: amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulations and guidance from the Department of Labor for implementing the regulations. The regulatory package is a central part of the Administration’s aggressive regulatory agenda we have previously discussed and reflects continuing burdens on federal contractors.

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California: Making Arbitration Great Again

California’s resistance to the longstanding federal policy favoring arbitration frequently results in public expressions of frustration by the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.  In over five years since the Supreme Court’s broad directives in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011), recent California decisions, including our recent coverage of the California Supreme Court’s holding in Sandquist v. Lebo, Case No. S220812, 2016 WL 4045008 (Cal. July 28, 2016), suggest that the state’s stubbornness may be waning, at least for the time being.  The following summarizes key decisions that diverge from California’s traditional resistance to arbitration and which every employer should have in their arsenal of tools.

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California Supreme Court Holds “No Universal Rule” Exists When Deciding Who Should Determine Availability of Classwide Arbitration

On July 28, 2016, the California Supreme Court added to the ever-changing body of case law regarding classwide arbitration when it held that “no universal rule” exists regarding who (the court or the arbitrator) should decide whether classwide arbitration is permissible under an arbitration agreement, and that this issue must be decided on a case-by-case basis. 

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