Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP, No. 13-16599 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs Morris and McDaniel filed suit against Ernst & Young, alleging that the company misclassified Morris and similarly situated employees and denied overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and California laws. Ernst & Young subsequently moved to compel arbitration under the agreements signed by Morris and McDaniel. The district court ordered arbitration and dismissed the case. Morris and McDaniel argue that their employment agreements, where they signed a "concerted action waiver" with the company, violate federal labor laws and cannot be enforced. Plaintiffs claim that the “separate proceedings” clause in the agreement contravenes three federal statutes: the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 151 et. seq., the Norris LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and the FLSA. The court agreed with the Board's interpretation of section 7 and section 8 of the NLRA that an employer violates the NLRA when it requires employees covered by the Act, as a condition of their employment, to sign an agreement that precludes them from filing joint, class, or collective claims addressing their wages, hours, or other working conditions against the employer in any forum, arbitral or judicial. In this case, the terms of the concerted action waiver are unenforceable. The “separate proceedings” clause prevents concerted activity by employees in arbitration proceedings, and the requirement that employees only use arbitration prevents the initiation of concerted legal action anywhere else. The court also concluded that the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., does not dictate a contrary result. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine whether the “separate proceedings” clause was severable from the contract.