Employment Law Report

Supreme Court Confirms Company’s Right to Prohibit Class Action Claims Being Litigated Under an Arbitration Agreement

By Edwin S. Hopson

On April 27, 2011, in a 5 – 4 decision, authored by Justice Scalia and joined in by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. ____ (2011), held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempted California law holding that an arbitration provision that disallowed class action proceedings was unconscionable and unenforceable.  Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented.  Although the underlying case was commercial in nature, this decision has significant ramifications in the employment law arena in light of the fact that many employers require employees to sign on to arbitration agreements or programs that limit the types of disputes that can be litigated in court or before administrative agencies.  Indeed, Justice Scalia relied in part on and cited Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U. S. 20, 33 (1991) which allowed age discrimination claims to be arbitrated.   Also, this case could have application to collective bargaining agreement arbitration provisions as well.