After years of litigation across the country and sharply divided rulings among the Circuits (some damning class/collective action waivers and others enforcing them), and over seven months after oral argument, the United States Supreme Court upheld the enforceability of arbitration agreements that include class and collective action waivers.  It was a close decision, 5-4, like many key workplace law rulings.  The ruling can be read here.

Having an arbitration agreement with a broad waiver against multi-claimant litigation can play a significant role in reducing  risk and the cost of defending claims.  If an employer is sued by an employee, for example, the claims would be “transferred” from state or federal court to an arbitral forum.  In that arbitration, the scope of claims  would be limited to the single claimant (rather than facing a jury trial and claims brought in behalf of a class).  An agency (e.g., DOL, EEOC) could still pursue a claim on a systemic or class basis, but agency litigation is far less frequent than private litigation.  Clearly, a class waiver agreement (and the avoidance of jury trials in federal and state courts) could materially reduce exposure and possibly legal fees.  Other than in “rocket docket” Circuits, arbitrations tend to occur more quickly than court adjudications, thus reducing potential back pay and spurring claims toward resolution while memories are fresh and witnesses are more likely to be available.

Jackson Lewis was counsel in one of the consolidated cases where the lower court held the waivers enforceable (Fifth Circuit), which was affirmed by the Supreme Court.  The other Circuits (Seventh and Ninth) were reversed.

For a more detailed analysis of the Court’s decision click here.

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Photo of Paul J. Siegel Paul J. Siegel

Paul J. Siegel is a Principal in the Long Island, New York office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  For many years he was the chair of the firm’s national Wage and Hour Practice Group.  Mr. Siegel has represented management in wage hour, employment discrimination, affirmative action and labor matters since 1976.  He regularly appears before federal and state agencies and courts in various equal employment, wage hour and labor law matters.  In April of 1991, Mr. Siegel argued a landmark age discrimination case before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Siegel graduated magna cum laude from the State University of New York at Buffalo (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1973 and received his Juris Doctor degree with honors from Emory University School of Law in 1976.  Mr. Siegel frequently addresses supervisors and managers to assist them in developing the skills needed to manage effectively in today’s challenging legal environment.  He has appeared on national and local television and radio, and has presented seminars and written articles concerning wage hour, affirmative action, discrimination and labor law matters across the country.  A 2003 peer survey identified him as one of Long Island’s top ten employment attorneys.

In the insurance industry, he is a member of the Professional Liability Underwriters Society (PLUS) and has been a featured speaker at PLUS, National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO), Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), Professional Insurance Wholesalers Association (PIWA), and Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS) conferences.  He has lectured about employment issues to meetings of the New York and Kentucky Bar Associations, the 1998 Conference of Justices of the Courts of the State of New York and many other industry groups.

Education

  • Emory University, 
J.D., 1976
  • State University of New York at Buffalo, 
B.A., 1973 
Phi Beta Kappa

Bar & Professional Association Memberships

  • New York State Bankers Association
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Professional Liability Underwriters Society