The Supreme Court’s opinion is found in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis , 584 U.S. ___ (May 21, 2018) No. 16-285. Previously, two federal circuit courts of appeal held that class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements violate an employee’s right to collectively bargain and engage in concerted activities provided by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. A different federal circuit court of appeal held that class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are permissible under the United States Arbitration Act of 1925. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the three cases to resolve the conflict in decisions among the federal circuit courts.
The Supreme Court held that the plain language of the United States Arbitration Act, which states that arbitration agreements must be enforced as written, manifests the intention and instructions from Congress. Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court and stated that though the policy may be debatable, the law is clear. Justice Ginsburg dissented and stated that the majority’s opinion would inhibit an employee’s ability to seek redress for small wage claims that are too expensive and burdensome to litigate. Justice Ginsburg called upon Congress to pass legislation that would eliminate or obviate class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements.
Many California legislators seem to share the same belief as Justice Ginsburg. In October 2015, the California legislature passed AB 465 which would have prohibited arbitration agreements in the employment context. Governor Brown vetoed AB 465 stating that he was not ready to sign a blanket prohibition of arbitration agreements in the employment context and that the legislature should pass targeted legislation aimed to remedying specific issues presented by mandatory arbitration of employment claims.
On February 16, 2018, Assembly Member Gonzalez-Fletcher introduced AB 3080, which would ban mandatory arbitration agreements in the employment context. Assembly Member Gonzalez-Fletcher has connected her bill to the #MeToo movement and claims that employers use arbitration as a means to silence employees who have been the subjects of sexual harassment and discrimination as well as wage theft and related disputes. AB 3080 is currently being discussed in the Appropriations Committee. Our office is tracking the progress of this bill.
Even though the Supreme Court has held that employers may have class action waivers in arbitration agreements, an arbitration agreement with a class action waiver must still be an enforceable contract under California law.
We recommend that all employers contact us to review their employee arbitration agreements and discuss the value of including a class action waiver. Please contact Kurtis Urien at Kurtis@mrjclaw.com for assistance with employee arbitration agreements.
The California Supreme Court has adopted a new test for determining whether a worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor under California law.
The Court’s opinion is found in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court , (2018) S222732. The employer in this case classified delivery drivers as employees until 2004 when the employer adopted a new policy and contractual arrangement under which all drivers were classified as independent contractors. Soon after, Dynamex’s drivers filed a class action lawsuit for violations of California labor laws. In determining whether the class action lawsuit could proceed, the Court of Appeal applied the definitions of ‘employ’, ‘employee’, and ‘employer’ that are found in the applicable IWC Wage Order and held that the drivers were employees, not independent contractors. Dynamex appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision to the California Supreme Court arguing that the Court of Appeal should have applied the multi-factor test previously adopted by the California Supreme Court and many other jurisdictions and administrative agencies.
The California Supreme Court instead adopted a new test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor and held that Dynamex’s drivers were employees. The Court named this new test the “ABC” test. Under the ABC test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom an IWC Wage Order does not apply only if the hiring entity establishes all of the following:
(A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and if fact;
(B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
(C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.
All three requirements must be satisfied for a worker to be properly classified as an independent contractor. If just one requirement is not satisfied, the worker must be classified as an employee.
The Court’s new test is a considerable change and requires all companies that engage independent contractors to reevaluate their relationships and classifications. Companies that have built their business based on a model that utilizes independent contractors may need to reevaluate their business model.
We recommend that all companies that engage independent contractors contact us to discuss worker classifications and compliance with the Court’s new test. Please contact Marla Merhab Robinson at Marla@mrjclaw.com or Kurtis Urien at Kurtis@mrjclaw.com for assistance with classifying workers.