In a non-employment case of significant importance to employers and employment lawyers, the U.S. Supreme Court held today that imposing class arbitration on parties who have not agreed to class arbitration is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act and is therefore not permitted. This case arose out of an MDL antitrust case alleging that certain competitors were engaged in a price-fixing scheme. The parties to the underlying transaction were signatories to an arbitration agreement that was silent on whether the arbitrator had the authority to conduct class action arbitrations. For a more detailed review of the factual and procedural background of the case, see the SCOTUS Wiki on the case here.
The significance of this case to employers is that many employment agreements containing arbitration provisions are also silent on the issue of class arbitration (and some specifically exclude class action arbitration). Without doubt this opinion will be used to argue that an arbitrator lacks the authority under the FAA to arbitrate class action employment disputes where the parties’ agreement, or other probative evidence, fails to establish that the parties agreed to arbitrate those claims collectively.