For several years, plaintiffs’ attorneys, with the help of National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) precedent, have successfully challenged class action waivers in employer arbitration agreements for preventing “protected concerted activity.” Several federal courts, including the Ninth Circuit which covers California, have invalidated class action waivers in employment agreements by relying on the tenuous argument that such waivers unlawfully restrict employee rights to engage in concerted activity. Plaintiffs’ attorneys expected the same result when they challenged such waivers before the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (“ALRB”).
However, in two recent decisions, T.T. Miyaska, Inc. (42 ALRB No.5) and Premiere Raspberries, LLC dba Dutra Farms (42 ALRB No. 4), the ALRB ruled that class action waivers in individual employment arbitration agreements do not violate employee rights under California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The ALRB refused to follow the NLRB’s position that class action waivers violate employees’ concerted activity rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
In Iskanian v. CLS Transportaion LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, California’s Supreme Court upheld class action waivers and rejected the reasoning of the NLRB in non-agricultural settings. Noland Hamerly attorney Ana C. Toledo, representing both T.T. Miyasaka, Inc. and Premiere Raspberries, LLC convinced the ALRB that Iskanian was controlling authority in California which all state agencies must follow.
The ALRB’s recent decisions set a much welcomed precedent for agricultural employers. “These rulings upholding class action waivers will require employees to litigate their claims individually reducing their value to predatory plaintiff law firms,” said NHEH attorney Ana C. Toledo.
Class action waivers are an effective tool in an employer’s defense to class action wage and hour lawsuits. However, these waivers are constantly under attack by plaintiff law firms and the required content of employee arbitration agreements is evolving. Employers whose arbitration agreements have not been revised in more than a year should have competent employment counsel review their agreement to ensure compliance with the latest case law developments.
© 2016 Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss