The Supreme Court unanimously held on June 6, 2022 that airline workers who load and unload cargo from airplanes are exempt from the coverage provided under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Employers commonly use the FAA to compel arbitration where disputes arise under employment agreements containing arbitration provisions. However, Section 1 of the FAA exempts “seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” from the FAA’s coverage. According to the Supreme Court, workers who load and unload cargo onto airplanes fall within that exemption.
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On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, No. 20-1573, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts a rule of California law insofar as it precludes agreeing to arbitrate only an employee’s individual claims under California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).
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On March 30, 2022, a panel in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overruled nearly 30-year-old precedent and held that arbitration provisions do not survive the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in Pittsburgh Mailers Union Local 22 v. PG Publishing Co. The previous rule, first articulated in Luden’s Inc. v. Local No. 6 Union of the Bakery, Confectionary & Tobacco Workers International Union, 28 F.3d 347 (3d Cir. 1994), was premised on the idea that where an employer and a union agree to maintain certain terms and conditions of employment after the expiration of a CBA, a “new implied-in-fact-CBA” is formed that implicitly incorporates the expired CBA’s dispute resolution mechanisms. The only exceptions were situations where both parties intended the arbitration clause to expire with the contract or where one party, under the totality of the circumstances “objectively manifest[ed] to the other a particularized intent . . . to disavow or repudiate that term.” These exceptions were exceedingly narrow.
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A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the January 2020 preliminary injunction against enforcement of Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), and upheld portions of the law that prohibited employers from making arbitration agreements a condition of employment. As a result of this decision, the Ninth Circuit has resurrected California Labor Code § 432.6, that bars businesses from requiring workers to arbitrate job-related claims. However, the court invalidated portions of AB 51 imposing civil and criminal penalties for mandating arbitration in violation of § 432.6.
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Employers who have watched the National Labor Relations Board — the nation’s primary enforcer of labor law — over the years anticipate that it will reshuffle its priorities soon after the White House changes parties. The agency swore in Jennifer Abruzzo as its new general counsel on July 22, 2021; and three weeks later, Abruzzo released an internal memorandum that is a blueprint for changes to the law she would like to see the agency implement.
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Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an arbitration agreement cannot be read as permitting class arbitration unless the agreement clearly and explicitly so provides; it is not enough that the agreement is susceptible to the interpretation that it permits class arbitration. This holding gives employers another tool to fend off class actions and compel alleged class claims to individual arbitration.
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