On September 18, 2020, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals held in SEIU Local 121RN v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center, DBA Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center (Los Robles) that the power to decide whether a grievance is arbitrable in labor cases resides with the federal court and not the arbitrator absent “clear and unmistakable” evidence to the contrary. The Los Robles decision overturns the Ninth Circuit decision, United Bhd. Of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., Local No. 1780 v. Desert Palace, Inc. (Desert Palace), which held that in labor cases, an arbitrator must decide the issue arbitrability if the agreement includes a broad arbitration clause even though the parties failed to specify their intent. The Los Robles decision is consistent with the unanimous  U.S Supreme Court decision, Granite Rock Co. v. Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters (Granite Rock) which applied the same arbitrability framework to labor and commercial arbitration disputes, and rejected  the assertion that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) “pro-arbitration policy” required that labor disputes be arbitrated “where evidence of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate the dispute [was]  lacking.”
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit: Court Decides Threshold Arbitration Issue Absent Clear and Unmistakable Evidence

The United States Supreme Court settled a controversy that had been brewing for half a decade as to whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) made enforceable individual agreements to arbitrate employment-related claims in the face of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) which is seen to protect individuals’ rights to join together and participate in protected “concerted activity” under Section 7 of the NLRA. In a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Court found such class or collective action waivers in arbitration agreements to be enforceable and overturned the decision of the Seventh Circuit in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, (7th Cir. 2016), while resolving a split in the Circuits on this issue. With the resolution of this uncertainty, many other employers may consider individual arbitration agreements, waiving class or collective action, for their employees.
Continue Reading A Significant Victory for Employer Use of Individual Arbitration Agreements

The U.S. Solicitor General changing positions, the NLRB issuing a follow-up letter to oral arguments and the grave observation that a ruling for employees would invalidate agreements covering 25 million employees all reflect the contentious nature of the consolidated cases before the Supreme Court challenging the ability of an employee and employer to agree to limit resolution of legal claims to individual arbitration.

Continue Reading The Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements Covering 25 Million Employees Wait on a Divided Supreme Court

Earlier this month the United States Supreme Court decided to hear three cases which will resolve the split between various Courts of Appeals (discussed in our prior post here) as to whether individual arbitration agreements barring class arbitration actions in employment-related matters are enforceable. While the Court held in 2011 that the Federal Arbitration Act would allow companies to avoid consumer class actions by insisting upon individual arbitrations in their contracts, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, workers have contended that employment contracts are different. They have successfully argued that the National Labor Relations Act prohibits class waivers since it would impinge upon worker’s rights to engage in “concerted activities”. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals accepted such an argument in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (discussed in our prior post here), and the Ninth Circuit accepted such an argument in Ernst and Young v. Morris. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the same argument in National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil U.S.A.
Continue Reading Mandatory Employee Arbitration Split To Be Heard By Supreme Court

Normally, by the time an issue has been processed through the various steps of the grievance procedure, both parties know what the facts and relevant documents are prior to the arbitration.  But sometimes that process breaks down and the parties fail to fully develop the factual foundation prior to the arbitration hearing.  Then the union

I am commonly asked what I believe is the most important issue when it comes to arbitration.  For me the answer is always the same, whether we are talking about a labor arbitration, a construction dispute, or any other arbitration.  The most important issue in any arbitration is the selection of the arbitrator.  There are

Although ADR programs have been in existence for many years, given the recent green light by the Supreme Court regarding the use of arbitration, its application is being reassessed and applied by a number of entities in an effort to control the overwhelming cost of litigation, both in terms of the process and the outcome. 

The acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Lafe Solomon, has addressed a number of workplace topics, including social media policies, at-will employment statements and class action waivers in arbitration agreements. In addition, a new NLRB webpage describes the rights of employees, even if they are not in a union. Both of