Earlier this week, a Ninth Circuit panel sided with a coalition of business groups to affirm a preliminary injunction that stopped California state officials from enforcing California’s AB 51, a 2019 law that would have effectively prevented the formation of employment arbitration agreements in California. (Mayer Brown lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the California Chamber of Commerce and led briefing and argument in the Ninth Circuit.) This decision eliminates the considerable uncertainty about the use of arbitration to resolve employment disputes that had been caused by the enactment of AB 51 andContinue Reading Ninth Circuit Upholds Injunction Blocking a California Law That Would Have Severely Limited Employment Arbitration Agreements
The Supreme Court kicked off its October 2017 Term yesterday with a spirited oral argument in the three cases involving the enforceability of arbitration agreements in employment contracts.
As we have explained, these cases—Epic Systems v. Lewis, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, and NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA—present the question whether an arbitration agreement in an employment contract that requires bilateral arbitration, and prohibits class procedures, is invalidated by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gives employees the right “to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the National Labor Relations Board, Section 7 protects employees’ right to seek relief on a class-wide basis, and therefore renders unenforceable arbitration agreements that bar class procedures—even though the Supreme Court has twice held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) protects the enforceability of such agreements, in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) and American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant (2013).
The four Justices who dissented in either Concepcion or Italian Colors (or both) aggressively defended the NLRB’s determination. When the dust settled, however, it was not at all clear that they will be able to attract a fifth Justice to their position.Continue Reading Supreme Court Considers Class Waivers in Employment Arbitration Agreements
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral argument in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146, a case that has been closely watched for its potential to narrow the circumstances in which a class action may be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and a collective action for unpaid wages certified under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). We previously described this case in prior blog posts. One of us attended the argument, and the other closely reviewed the transcript (pdf). Our combined reaction: The anticipated decision in this case may focus on an FLSA issue and, if so, then it seems unlikely to mark a sea change in the rules governing Rule 23 class actions.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Hears Argument in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo—and a Blockbuster Class Certification Ruling Seems Less Likely
Today, the Supreme Court granted review in what may be a major decision on the standards for class certification, Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Revisit Class-Certification Standards in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo
The Supreme Court will decide before the end of this Term whether to hear any or all of four important cases that raise recurring questions of class action law that have sharply divided the lower courts. These cases address questions that we have blogged about before (e.g., here and here): whether a class full of uninjured members may be certified, and whether plaintiffs may rely on experts and statistics to gloss over individualized differences among class members in order to prove their class claims and damages. These questions strike at the heart of what it means to be a “class,” because class actions generally must be litigated using common evidence to show that each class member has been harmed.
Continue Reading Supreme Court To Decide Whether To Hear Four High-Stakes Cases Asking When A Suit May Be Litigated As A Class Action
A plaintiff hopes to represent a class to pursue two sets of wage-and-hour claims but runs into headwinds in the district court. First, one set of claims disappears because his legal theory doesn’t withstand a motion to dismiss. Then class certification is denied on what was left. After that, the defendant— invoking Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—offers to settle “any liability claimed in this action.” Under Rule 68, if the case goes to judgment and the plaintiff wins less than the offer, he would be liable for the defendant’s costs for any proceedings after the offer…
Continue Reading Yes, you really did settle all your claims when you said you did: Ninth Circuit dismisses appeal of class certification denial by plaintiff who accepted Rule 68 offer
Suppose that you’re a trial court considering a motion for class certification. And suppose that the parties present you with two competing statutory interpretations. One legal standard permits the case to be adjudicated with common evidence. And the other standard would require individualized inquiries. What should you do? Should you decide what the law is and then see whether the putative class claims can be tried in a single trial?
The surprising answer of the California Court of Appeal is in Hall v. Rite Aid Corp. (pdf) is “No.” Hall appears to conclude that commonality and predominance need not be…
Continue Reading California Court Says No Need To Resolve Disputes Over Substantive Law In Evaluating Whether Class Can Be Certified
In Duran v. U.S. Bank N.A. (pdf), the California Supreme Court recently addressed an important question in the context of state-court class actions: Can plaintiffs invoke statistical sampling in an attempt to prove class-wide liability and overcome the presence of individual questions that ordinarily would defeat class certification?
The court’s answer to that question is a mixed bag for business. The court firmly rejected the haphazard approach to sampling used by the trial court in the lawsuit against U.S. Bank. But the court left open the troubling possibility that sampling might be used in support of class certification in the future.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Rejects Exceptionally Poor Sampling Method, But Leaves Open Many Questions About Sampling And Class Certification
The Supreme Court makes its biggest headlines when it wades into the biggest issues of the day. But the Supreme Court also maintains a substantial docket of seemingly small—but ultimately important—technical questions.
In recent years, the Court has been particularly interested in defining precisely when an hourly employee is on and off the clock. For example, earlier this term, the Court held in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. that employers need not compensate certain workers for time spent donning and doffing safety gear. The Court will answer a related question next term. Yesterday, the Court granted certiorari to…
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Decide Whether Fair Labor Standards Act Requires Compensating Employees for End-of-Shift Security Screenings
In recent years, one of the hottest types of collective actions against employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is what is commonly called a “donning and doffing claim”—a lawsuit for unpaid wages for time employees spent changing clothes for work, such as putting on uniforms, safety gear, and the like. In a recent decision, Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. (pdf), No. 12-417, the Supreme Court unanimously clarified the rules for these collective actions.
One of the major fights in donning and doffing suits is over the meaning of a key provision of the FLSA that exempts employers from having to compensate employees for off-the-clock “time spent in changing clothes … at the beginning or end of each workday” (29 U.S.C. § 203(o)) if a collective bargaining agreement so provides. Many agreements do exactly that.
Nonetheless, parties have litigated for years over what activities are exempt under Section 203(o). The plaintiffs’ bar typically takes a very narrow view of what constitutes “changing clothes” under the statute. The Court’s decision today takes a far more practical view of the statute. Sandifer makes clear that time spent donning or doffing protective gear that is (1) designed and used to cover the body and (2) commonly regarded as an article of dress—including hard hats, protective jackets, and protective coverings for the arms and legs—is exempt if the employees’ collective bargaining agreement so provides. In addition, minimal time spent putting on or removing other protective gear (such as safety glasses and earplugs) during this time is likewise exempt. Sandifer is therefore likely to reduce the number of circumstances that would allow plaintiffs to succeed in bringing donning-and-doffing lawsuits under the FLSA.
We provide more details about the decision in Sandifer after the jump.Continue Reading Do Employers Have To Pay Unionized Workers For Time Spent Donning and Doffing Safety Gear? Supreme Court Says No.