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Supreme Court: Collective Bargaining Agreements Can Require Union Members to Arbitrate Federal Discrimination Claims

Posted in Discrimination & Harassment

I’m taking a few days off, but unfortunately for me, employment law never stops.  So, here’s a quick update on a new Supreme Court decision. 

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that “a collective-bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably requires a union member to arbitrate ADEA claims is enforceable as a matter of federal law.”

Several blogs have done a good job summarizing the case, including the Employer Law Report and this summary from Littler:

While the decision in 14 Penn Plaza L.L.C. v. Pyett specifically addressed age discrimination claims arising under a federal statute, the Court’s decision is significant in that it now provides an opportunity for employers with unionized workforces to require that union members’ discrimination and other statutory employment claims be privately arbitrated, rather than litigated in federal court. To get to that result, however, the relevant provision in the collective bargaining agreement must constitute a clear and unmistakable waiver of the right to pursue such claims in court.

For those employers who have collective bargaining agreements that might be up for bargaining soon, this decision gives employers another arrow in their quiver that they need to consider.