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Labor and Employment Law Alert - NLRB Steps Up Enforcement Against Class Action Waivers

November 23, 2015   |   Atlanta | Chicago | Columbus | Dallas | Delaware | Elkhart | Fort Wayne | Grand Rapids | Indianapolis | Los Angeles | Minneapolis | South Bend

Many companies have mandatory arbitration agreements with their employees. Those agreements often contain class and collective action waivers, meaning employees must bring their claims individually. In a recent decision against Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., regarding just such an agreement, an administrative law judge (ALJ) under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) once again ruled that such waivers violated the National Labor Relations Act, which protects “concerted activity” on behalf of employees to promote their mutual aid and benefit.

However, the ALJ went further in this opinion than the NLRB has previously ruled. First, the ALJ ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act (which many federal courts have invoked to uphold such class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements) is inapplicable, stating the mandatory arbitration agreement is not a “transaction that affects commerce,” a requirement for coverage under the FAA. Second, and even more significant for employers, the ALJ (1) recommended that Hobby Lobby notify the federal district courts where it had previously enforced it arbitration agreement that it would be rescinding or revising its unlawful mandatory arbitration agreement; and (2) ordered the company to reimburse the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses.

This bold move will almost certainly be appealed to the full board, and then likely to federal court. Thus far, every federal appeals court to address this issue has come down against the position staked out by the NLRB. Barnes & Thornburg will closely monitor this important case.

To obtain more information, please contact the Barnes & Thornburg Labor & Employment attorney with whom you work, or a leader of the firm’s Labor & Employment Law Department in the following offices:

Kenneth J. Yerkes
Department Chair
(317) 231-7513

John T.L. Koenig
Atlanta
(404) 264-4018

David B. Ritter
Chicago
(312) 214-4862

William A. Nolan
Columbus
(614) 628-1401

Mark S. Kittaka
Fort Wayne
(260) 425-4616

Robert W. Sikkel
Grand Rapids
616-742-3978

Peter A. Morse
Indianapolis
(317) 231-7794

Scott J. Witlin
Los Angeles
(310) 284-3777

Teresa L. Jakubowski
Washington, D.C.
(202) 371-6366

Janilyn Brouwer Daub
South Bend/Elkhart
(574) 237-1130

© 2015 Barnes & Thornburg LLP. All Rights Reserved. This page, and all information on it, is proprietary and the property of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. It may not be reproduced, in any form, without the express written consent of Barnes & Thornburg LLP.

This Barnes & Thornburg LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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