arbitration agreements

The State of California filed an appeal last week to challenge a federal court’s order barring California from enforcing a new state law that would curtail workplace arbitration agreements.  Unless the State takes some additional action, the lower court’s ban on enforcement of the new law, AB 51, will remain in effect during the appeal.

A federal court in Sacramento explained last week its rationale for temporarily barring the State of California from enforcing a new law, AB 51, that would curtail employment arbitration agreements.  The rationale set forth in that written order of February 7, 2020, strongly suggests (but does not guarantee) that the court is inclined to permanently

A federal judge in Sacramento has continued an order that temporarily bars the State of California from enforcing a new state law that would curtail employment arbitration agreements.  The new law, AB 51, which added section 432.6 to the California Labor Code, would have banned employers from requiring employees to agree to arbitrate claims alleging

Mandatory arbitration agreements in California employment have been granted a stay of execution. For now. Earlier today, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order enjoining enforcement of AB 51, the new California law that would have banned employers in the state from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition

The October 13, 2019 deadline for Governor Newsom to take his final actions in the 2019 legislative season has come and gone and as expected, he signed into law a number of employment-related bills. Below is a summary of just a few of those bills that will have a significant impact on employment litigation in California.  To read the full article, please click here.

A.    Assembly Bill 51

AB 51 was introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales and will severely restrict the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in employment. The Bill adds section 12953 to the California Government Code (“FEHA”) and states that it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to violate section 432.6 of the California Labor Code.

B.   Senate Bill 707

In Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc. case (2000) 24 Cal. 4th 83, the California Supreme Court concluded, among other things, that “when an employer imposes mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment, the arbitration agreement or arbitration process cannot generally require the employee to bear any type of expense that the employee would not be required to bear if he or she were free to bring the action in court.”  In a number of cases after Armendariz, courts have held that an employer’s failure to pay the arbitration costs [and thus delaying or preventing the arbitration of the dispute] constitutes a material breach of the arbitration agreement.

In line with this case law, SB 707, introduced by Senator Wieckowski, provides that a company’s failure to pay the fees of an arbitration service provider in accordance with its obligations contained within an arbitration agreement or through application of state or federal law or the rules of the arbitration provider hinders the efficient resolution of disputes and contravenes public policy.  According to SB 707, a company’s strategic non-payment of fees and costs severely prejudices the ability of employees [or consumers] to vindicate their rights. This practice is particularly problematic and unfair when the party failing or refusing to pay those fees and costs is the party that imposed the obligation to arbitrate disputes.

Therefore, among other things, SB 707 adds section 1281.97 to the California Code of Civil Procedure and provides that in an employment or consumer arbitration that requires, either expressly or through application of state or federal law or the rules of the arbitration administrator, the drafting party to pay certain fees and costs before the arbitration can proceed, if the fees or costs to initiate an arbitration proceeding are not paid within 30 days after the due date, the drafting party is in material breach of the arbitration agreement, is in default of the arbitration, and waives its right to compel arbitration.  As a result, the employee [or consumer] may do either of the following:

  1. Withdraw the claim from arbitration and proceed in a court of appropriate jurisdiction; or
  2. Compel arbitration in which the drafting party shall pay reasonable attorney’s fees and costs related to the arbitration.

If the employee withdraws the claim from arbitration and proceeds with an action in a court of appropriate jurisdiction, the statute of limitations with regard to all claims brought or that relate back to any claim brought in arbitration shall be tolled as of the date of the first filing of a claim in any court, arbitration forum, or other dispute resolution forum.  Further, if the employee proceeds with an action in a court, the court shall impose sanctions on the drafting party in accordance with Civil Code section 1281.99, which requires the drafting party to the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees and costs, incurred by the employee as a result of the material breach.  The court may also impose additional sanctions against a drafting party including, but not limited to, discovery sanctions and terminating sanctions.
Continue Reading New Laws that Will Significantly Impact the Litigation of Employment Disputes