Vacating a $10 million arbitration award resulting from a “collective action” arbitration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that whether class or collective arbitration is authorized by an arbitration agreement is a threshold question for the district court, not an arbitrator. Herrington v. Waterstone Mortgage Corp., No. 17-3609 (7th Cir. Oct. 22, 2018).
Arbitration Of Claims
On October 3, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, No. 17-340. While the case turns on what may appear to be a simple question of statutory interpretation, the outcome could have profound consequences for employers throughout the transportation industry, for hundreds of thousands of independent owner-operators, and eventually for all consumers.
In a matter of first impression before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and an issue left open by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that who decides whether an action can be litigated as a class in arbitration is an issue of “arbitrability” and those are all to be decided by the court in the absence of terms of the arbitration agreement that evince a “clear and unmistakable intent” to overcome that default presumption. JPay, Inc. v. Kobel, No. 17-13611 (11th Cir. Sept. 19, 2018).
Courts usually enforce mandatory arbitration agreements in the employment context if the agreements are not too one-sided.
Many employers rely on pre-dispute arbitration agreements, usually entered at the beginning of employment, to resolve disputes that may arise during employment. The objective is to address matters through binding and private arbitration rather than public litigation. Now a bipartisan coalition in Congress, including Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., is trying to make arbitration agreements unenforceable in any “sex discrimination dispute.”
The United States Supreme Court heard a one-hour consolidated oral argument in three arbitration cases involving the intersection of the National Labor Relations Act and the Federal Arbitration Act on October 2, 2017.
Overview: By Decision dated July 19, 2017 (the “Decision”), the Appellate Division, First Department (the “First Department”) (which has jurisdiction over Manhattan and Bronx) held that arbitration agreements obligating employees to waive their rights to bring collective disputes, such as class actions regarding wage disputes, were unlawful and unenforceable because they “run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act” (the “NLRA”). Though freely acknowledging that the United States Supreme Court will resolve a similar issue in its October 2017 Term, the Decision currently binds the trial courts in Manhattan and Bronx and has precedential effect for other trial courts throughout New York. The Decision can be appealed to New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.
On May 15, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated the principle that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires states to treat arbitration agreements just as they treat other types of contracts. In Kindred Nursing Centers L.P. v. Clark, the Court reversed in part a decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court, which had instituted a new rule chipping away at the enforceability of arbitration agreements under certain circumstances.1 Justice Kagan wrote the majority 7-1 opinion and, moreover, was joined by other liberal-leaning members of the Court.2 While newly-confirmed Justice Gorsuch did not participate, the Kindred Nursing Centers decision reaffirms the Supreme Court’s continued commitment to uphold arbitration agreements under the FAA to the greatest extent possible.
Three cases making their way through the courts demonstrate that the question of arbitration clauses in long-term care (LTC) facility admission agreements is an active and developing area of the law.
In Ziober v. BLB Resources, Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 18516 (9th Cir., Oct. 14, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit joined three other circuit courts in holding that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) does not prohibit the compelled arbitration of claims under the Act. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling helps solidify the right of employers to compel arbitration of USERRA claims under a valid arbitration agreement, particularly in light of this Circuit’s perceived hostility towards arbitration of employment-related claims. Ziober provides further support for the view that a properly drafted arbitration agreement provides employers with the ability to arbitrate USERRA claims and avoid litigation.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) announced September 7, 2016 that it intends to temporarily schedule the synthetic opioid known as U-47700 on Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act because it poses an imminent hazard to the public safety. A final scheduling order will be made on or after October 7, 2016. Schedule I drugs are drugs that have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
On September 7, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Mohamed v. Uber Technologies, Inc. largely overturned the District Court’s ruling which had held Uber’s arbitration agreements to be unenforceable. Last year, the District Court had held that the arbitration agreements were unconscionable due to the inclusion of a waiver of claims brought under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”). The decision invalidated nearly 250,000 arbitration agreements between Uber and independent drivers, allowing the case against Uber to proceed as a class action in civil court.
Within hours of Gretchen Carlson suing then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, Ailes’ attorney responded that Carlson was “desperately attempting to litigate [her termination] in the press.” It didn’t take much longer for Ailes to follow this comment with a formal motion to thwart Carlson’s supposed dreams of a public trial; two days after Carlson instituted her lawsuit, Ailes filed a motion to compel arbitration of the claims pursuant to an arbitration provision contained in Carlson’s employment agreement with Fox News.
On the heels of the 7th Circuit’s May 27 Lewis v. Epic Systems decision, reported here, yesterday the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the NLRB erred in determining that Cellular Sales of Missouri, LLC violated the NLRA by maintaining and enforcing a mandatory arbitration agreement under which employees waived their rights to pursue class or collective action to redress employment-related disputes in any forum.
Setting the stage for U.S. Supreme Court review, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, has held that arbitration agreements that prohibit employees from bringing or participating in class or collective actions violate the National Labor Relations Act. Lewis v. Epic Systems Corp., No. 15-cv-82-bbc (7th Cir. May 26, 2016). This holding is contrary to that of the Second, Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.