Many employers and management-side employment lawyers have been almost giddy thinking about the potentially far-reaching effects of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion. In case you missed it, or may have ignored it because you felt the decision was about consumer fraud claims, in the AT&T case, the Supreme Court held that California’s law that prohibited waivers of class-action claims in contracts was pre-empted by the Federal Arbitration Act, and thus, was unenforceable. Although the AT&T decision is less than a month old, in Karp v. Cigna Corp, Cigna Corp. has already argued in a Massachusetts federal court that the AT&T decision mandates the dismissal of a proposed class-action sex discrimination case because the plaintiff had entered an employment contract which contained a clause requiring all disputes to be arbitrated.
In a direct response to the AT&T decision, Sens. Al Franken and Richard Blumenthal reintroduced S. 987, H.R. 1873, which would eliminate predispute, mandatory arbitration clauses in employment, civil rights, and consumer cases. The bill is currently in committee. Similar bills died in committee in 2009, but they did not have the impetus of a recent Supreme Court decision behind them. We’ll keep you posted.