If your company uses a class action waiver in your employment agreements and you are located in Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, or Washington, you are out of luck. Thanks to a recent decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over the aforementioned areas), that waiver is no longer enforceable.
Recently, the Court ruled in Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP, No. 13-16599, 2016 WL 4433080 (9th Cir. Aug. 22, 2016), that an employment agreement that requires employees to pursue legal claims against their employer in “separate proceedings” and in arbitration violates federal law. In that case, two employees sued Ernst & Young alleging they were misclassified as exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and were owed overtime pay. The trial court compelled individual arbitration, pursuant to the “separate proceedings” in arbitration demanded by the employment agreement the two employees signed upon hire. The Ninth Circuit reversed.
Employees are guaranteed the right to “engage in . . . concerted activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection” by the National Labor Relations Act. The Court held that protection for “concerted activities” means that employers cannot require employees to waive their right to pursue legal claims as a class action. Continue Reading