Supreme Court Decides Badgerow v. Walters

On March 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Badgerow v. Walters, No. 20-1143, reversing the Fifth Circuit, and holding that federal courts may only look to the application to confirm or vacate an arbitral decision in assessing jurisdiction.

Denise Badgerow initiated an arbitration action against Greg Walters, Thomas Meyer, and Ray Trosclair (collectively, Walters) alleging unlawful termination under federal and state law. The arbitrators sided with the employer and dismissed Badgerow’s claims. Badgerow then sued Walters to vacate the arbitral decision in state court. Walters removed the lawsuit to federal court and applied to confirm the arbitral award. The district court determined that it had jurisdiction over the pending applications using a look-through approach that considered the substance of the parties’ underlying substantive dispute, which raised federal-law claims. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

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9th Circuit Says Forum Selection and Choice of Law in Employment Agreement Violate California Law

On March 14, 2022, the 9th Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s decision in DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc. v. Howmedica Osteonics Corp. and Stryker Corp., that invalidated the New Jersey forum selection clause in the employment contract of Stryker’s former sales associate as a matter of California law and denied Stryker’s motion to transfer the litigation to New Jersey. Though forum selection clauses are generally enforceable under federal law, the 9th Circuit reasoned that deference must be given to state law in determining the validity of a forum selection clause before considering whether the clause is enforceable under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

The case involved a former Stryker medical device sales associate, Jonathan Waber, who was employed by Stryker in California and who signed an employment contract with Stryker without legal representation. The agreement included non-competition and non-solicitation provisions, and also included forum-selection and choice-of-law clauses requiring adjudication of contract disputes in New Jersey. After less than one year of employment with Stryker, Waber left Stryker to work for one of its competitors, DePuy. After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Stryker, DePuy and Waber preemptively filed a declaratory judgment action in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Stryker and its subsidiary, Howmedica.

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Colorado Issues New Guidance on Prohibition Against Forfeiture of Earned Vacation or PTO

A series of recent developments in Colorado law have made it clear that employers are prohibited from causing employees to forfeit earned vacation time. A compilation of recent developments and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s current position are contained in Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinion (INFO) #14, which explains that:

  1. Employees must be paid all earned vacation pay when their job ends.
  2. No employment policy or agreement can waive or forfeit earned vacation at any time.
  3. All paid leave which can be used at the discretion of the employee is considered “vacation pay” subject to the non-forfeiture rules.

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New Law Prohibiting the Mandatory Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Assault Claims Goes Into Effect

On March 3, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021” (the Act) into law. Upon signing the bill, which had bipartisan Congressional support, President Biden proclaimed, “[w]hen it comes to sexual harassment and assault, forced arbitration shielded perpetrators, silenced survivors, enabled employers to sweep episodes of sexual assault harassment under the rug and it kept survivors from knowing if others have experienced the same thing in the same workplace, at the hands of the same person.”

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DOJ Encourages State Court to Consider Antitrust Principles to Invalidate Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements between employers and their employees traditionally are governed by state law. But that did not stop the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from recently filing a statement of interest encouraging a Nevada state court to consider federal antitrust principles to invalidate non-compete agreements between a large medical group and its physician-employees. Taken together with other recent actions by the president and federal enforcement agencies, the DOJ’s decision to file this statement signals a more aggressive approach to non-compete enforcement at the federal level.

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NLRB’s General Counsel Announces Support for White House Labor Report

On February 10, 2022, the National Labor Relation Board’s (NLRB) General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, issued Memorandum GC 22-03 announcing her agreement with and support of the Biden administration’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment (Task Force) February 7, 2022 report. The Task Force was created by executive order in April 2021 to identify ways the executive branch can promote worker organization and collective bargaining through existing policies and programs. The Task Force’s report included recommendations to increase organizing and encourages collaboration between government agencies focused on worker protection. In addition to instructing field offices to adopt the recommendations outlined in the report, Abruzzo’s memorandum details current interagency undertakings and outlines future efforts to strengthen those collaborations.

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