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An Agreement to Arbitrate Employment Claims Must Also Allow for Access to Full Remedies Before the NLRB

In a separate post, we discussed several cases decided by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in which the Board invalidated agreements requiring employees to arbitrate employment-related claims due to vague language that did not make it clear that employees retained the right to pursue claims under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) before the NLRB. The recent decision in Kelly Services, Inc.. 368 NLRB No. 130 (12/12/2019) illustrates that even explicitly permitting claims before the NLRB will not guarantee an arbitration agreement’s survival if substantial ...

Watch Your Language: An Agreement to Arbitrate Employment Claims Must Allow for NLRA Claims Before the NLRB

The U.S. Supreme Court settled the long-standing dispute regarding the viability of class arbitration waivers in employment contracts with its determination in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 584 U. S. ____ (2018) that they indeed are enforceable, contrary to the position taken by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But that did not close the book on all questions regarding employment agreement arbitration clauses, nor did it mean that the NLRB would resolve remaining questions regarding the limits on their enforceability in favor of the employer. While class waivers and ...

U.S. Supreme Court Said “No” to Class Arbitration in Employment-Related Data Breach Dispute Because Arbitration Agreement Ambiguous on Class Procedures

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two 5-4 decisions in as many months regarding class procedures. Lamp Plus, Inc. v. Varela, 587 U. S. ____ (2019) was favorable to corporate defendants by limiting the availability of class arbitration when the arbitration agreement is ambiguous, while Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. v. Jackson, 587 U. S. ____ (2019) favored consumer plaintiffs by preventing third-party counterclaim defendants from removing class actions from state court to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Interestingly, Justice Thomas joined the conservative ...

A Split U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Class Waivers in Individual Employment Agreements, Highlighting the Role of Congress in the Class Waiver Fight

The viability of class waivers in employment agreements has been a closely watched battle in the courts since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in D. R. Horton, Inc. and Michael Cuda, Case 12–CA–25764, 357 NLRB No. 184 (2012) that class waivers in individual employment agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by preventing employees from engaging in concerted action related to their employment. Faced with an Executive Branch that was “speaki[ng] from both sides of its mouth” on this issue and a Congress that recently overturned another ...

This year important questions regarding the viability of class action waivers in arbitration agreements have moved close to resolution. In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a long-awaited final rule that prohibited class waivers in arbitration agreements related to a broad range of financial products. And employees and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have continued to push against the enforceability of class waivers in the context of individual employment agreements, driving the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court for review. On November 1 ...

In the years following the U.S. Supreme Court’s AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion decision, more and more courts enforced class waivers in arbitration agreements based on the commands of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) parted with the post-Concepcion trend to enforce class waivers in D. R. Horton, Inc. and Michael Cuda, Case 12–CA–25764, 357 NLRB No. 184 (Jan. 3, 2012), however, and held that such waivers in individual employment agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by prohibiting employees from acting in ...

On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed S. 1890 – The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) into law, the final step in creating the first federal civil cause of action against those who misappropriate a company’s trade secrets. In signing the Act, President Obama spoke of American innovation and the threat that trade secret theft, particularly in Asian markets, poses to American jobs, markets, and leadership. Our previous post, See You in Federal Court: Congress Creates Federal Civil Action for Trade Secret Misappropriation, provides details regarding key components of the Act ...

Plaintiffs can count the first class action decision to be issued by the U.S. Supreme Court since the death of Justice Scalia as a win; although, they did not receive broad authorization to proceed carte blanche, as some had hoped. On March 22, 2016, a 6-2 split Court issued its opinion in the Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo et al Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) class action which called into question the extent to which statistical averaging may be used to establish liability on a classwide basis and whether a class may be certified if it contains uninjured class members. The Court issued a ...

Class actions consume considerable company resources and can pose significant risk of exposure in the $ millions or $ billions. Therefore, it is critical for companies to prepare themselves – to know the trends in class action litigation and the tools available to minimize their exposure to class action liability. Over the last several weeks, the Supreme Court has heard arguments in three cases that have potential to further define the landscape of class action litigation: Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez (No. 14-857), Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins (No. 13-1339), and Tyson Foods, Inc. v ...

Class actions consume considerable company resources and can pose significant risk of exposure in the $ millions or $ billions. Therefore, it is critical for companies to prepare themselves – to know the trends in class action litigation and the tools available to minimize their exposure to class action liability. Over the last several weeks, the Supreme Court has heard arguments in three cases that have potential to further define the landscape of class action litigation: Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez (No. 14-857), Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins (No. 13-1339), and Tyson Foods, Inc. v ...

As it stands, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has taken the position that class action waivers in individual employee/employer arbitration agreements are illegal and the agency continues to invalidate these agreements even though the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that they are enforceable.  In D.R. Horton (2012), the NLRB invalidated class action waivers in individual employment agreements on the grounds that such waivers interfere with an employee’s rights to collective action provided by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  The Fifth ...

Circumscribing an individual’s power to subject companies to class and collective actions has been on the forefront of corporate litigation for several years, particularly in light of the growing trend of class action filings.  An increasingly common scenario facing corporate defendants is the “no-injury class” in which many members of a certified class actually sustained no injury or damages, resulting in a much larger class to which damages might be awarded.  This issue has arisen in a variety of contexts, including product liability class actions like the Whirlpool moldy ...

MLB Litigation Brief: 4th Circuit Hostile Work Enviro, Class Action Trends Cause Concern, Low-Wage Non-Competes & More


Our goal is to serve as a cutting-edge resource for companies operating in an increasingly globalized and regulated business environment. Moore & Van Allen’s MLB Litigation Brief is a complement to our Litigation Blog’s in-depth individual treatment of critical issues emerging in federal, North Carolina state, and international litigation, as well as in arbitration, regulatory enforcement, and related business practices. MLB Litigation Brief hits the highlights of recent developments, streamlining access to critical information for our readers. Subscribe to the ...

NLRB Judge Finds Employment Contract’s Arbitration Clause Invalid Although No Explicit “Waiver” of Class Actions

Last week, a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) Administrative Law Judge reiterated the agency’s position that employers who require the arbitration of grievances by employees on an individual basis violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by precluding protected concerted activity of the class and collective action mechanisms.  We have seen the NLRB strike down explicit class action waivers in employment contracts in its decisions since D.R. Horton (2012) and Murphy Oil (2014), contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Concepcion line of cases that ...

Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court Gives FLSA Class Action Win to Employers Screening for Theft

Employers continue to face an increasing number of lawsuits (including class and collective actions) claiming they violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) based on a wide variety of policies and conduct.  Recent federal statistics for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2014 show 8,126 FLSA cases had been filed by employees in 2014, up nearly 5% from the cases filed in 2013 and more than double the cases filed ten years prior.  Against this backdrop of unyielding employee litigation, Tuesday’s pro-employer decision issued by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court in ...

Your Collective Action Waiver May Not Survive in a Vacuum: 6th Circuit Says Arbitration Was Key to Enforcing Waiver of FLSA Claims

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently noted in Killion et al. v. KeHE Distrib., LLC, Nos. 13-3357/4340 (6th Cir. Jul. 30, 2014) that it was the first appellate court to tackle head on the question of whether a collective action waiver in the context of Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims can survive in the absence of an agreement requiring individual arbitration.  The collective action waiver before the Sixth Circuit was included in a severance agreement signed by several of the defendant’s employees upon termination, and required that they not consent to be part ...

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Family Dollar Stores, Inc.’s petition for writ of certiorari seeking review of the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Scott, et. al. v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., No. 12-1610 (4th Cir. Oct., 16, 2013).  The Fourth Circuit had overturned the District Court’s decision to deny plaintiff’s motion to amend its employment discrimination-based class action complaint on the grounds that “as a matter of law plaintiffs cannot satisfy the Rule 23(a) commonality requirement because the alleged gender discrimination was a result of 'subjective ...

Failed Attempts to Enforce Employee Non-Compete and Confidentiality Agreements: On Employees of Acquired Companies in North Carolina & Running Afoul the NLRA

Non-competition and confidentiality agreements can serve as invaluable tools to safeguard against the loss of confidential and proprietary information through current and former employees. However, recent state and federal cases serve as a critical reminder that these agreements may fail to protect companies if they are poorly crafted with arguably over broad restrictions or unsupported by sufficient consideration. We discuss two scenarios presented by AmeriGas Propane, LP v. Coffey, 2014 NCBC 4 (N.C. Super. Ct. 2014) and Flex Frac Logistics, L.L.C. v. NLRB, 198 ...

Redefining the Power of Arbitration in Unfair Labor Practice Cases: NLRB Solicited Briefs on the Issue

REDEFINING THE POWER OF ARBITRATION IN UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CASES: NLRB SOLICITED BRIEFS ON THE ISSUE - In line with recent efforts in the courts to define the scope of power of the arbitral forum, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently took on the issue of whether to modify the standard it applies to determine whether to defer to an arbitrator’s decision in a matter that presents unfair labor practice issues.  NLRB General Counsel requested that the Board modify the standard to require deferral, so long as it is not repugnant to the Act, if the party seeking deferral ...

D.R. Horton Still Alive: NLRB Judge Says Employer’s Intent to Compel Employees to Waive Class Claims Renders Arbitration Clause Unenforceable Even When there is No Explicit Waiver

Although the Circuit Courts of Appeals that have addressed the issue currently stand united in the view that class arbitration waivers in individual employment contracts do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) ruling to the contrary in D. R. Horton, Inc. and Michael Cuda, Case 12–CA–25764, 357 NLRB No. 184 (Jan. 3, 2012) continues to drive the invalidation of arbitration agreements in employment agreements.  On January 17, 2014, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge relied on the NLRB’s decision in D.R ...

“Loath to create a circuit split,” the Fifth Circuit Overturns NLRB’s D.R. Horton Ruling that Class Arbitration Waivers in Individual Employment Contracts Violate the NLRA

            The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently rendered its long-awaited decision in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. NLRB, No. 12-60031 (5th Cir.  Dec. 3, 2013), revised December 4, 2013, which reversed the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) ruling that held a class arbitration waiver contained in an arbitration provisions of individual employment contracts violated the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) to engage in concerted activities.  The NLRB issued its decision in D. R. Horton, Inc. and Michael Cuda, Case 12–CA–25764, 357 NLRB No. 184 ...

Two Principles “Readily Derived” from Wal-Mart v. Dukes that Drive Class Certification in Employment Discrimination Actions: The Fourth Circuit View in Scott v. Family Dollar

            The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals identified two principles driving the potential certification of a class in employment discrimination cases in Scott, et. al. v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., No. 12-1610 (4th Cir. Oct., 16, 2013) that it believes are “readily derived” from Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), but were misunderstood by the District Court when it denied plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their complaint to provide additional detail regarding allegations that Family Dollar exercised “centralized control of compensation for store managers at ...

            The viability of class arbitration waivers as a means for companies to limit their exposure to class actions continues to be tested, including in the employment arena.  One of the first cases to probe the enforceability of class arbitration waivers in employment agreements after AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011) was Raniere, et al. v. Citigroup Inc. filed in the Second Circuit.  Raniere, et al. v. Citigroup Inc., 827 F. Supp. 2d 294 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) was decided by the District Court on November 22, 2011 and appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on December 19 ...

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