Recently, the Third Circuit weighed in on the issue of whether it is up to courts or arbitrators to decide if a class action lawsuit should be adjudicated in court, or in an arbitral forum. This case also dealt with the issue of whether an employment agreement that is silent on the issue of class arbitration permits employees to proceed on a class-wide basis on that basis. In Opalinski v. Robert Half International, the 3rd Circuit sided against the plaintiffs who wished to proceed on a class wide basis in arbitration. The case involved employees of the placement firm, Robert Half.
The plaintiffs were two former staffing managers at Robert Half in New Jersey. The men claim that they were improperly classified as exempt from overtime pay, and wrongfully denied such pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The defense argued that when the men signed their employment contracts, they waived their right to resolve employment disputes in court. Their contracts provided that such disputes must be submitted to arbitration. However, their contracts were silent in regards to class wide arbitration. The two men brought an action on behalf of themselves and other putative class members who were denied overtime pay.
Shortly after filing the claim, a United States Dihttps://overtimestrict Court judge granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration of the employees’ individual claims. However, the district court determined that the arbitral forum had jurisdiction to decide whether class wide arbitration was permissible. The arbitrator found that such claims could proceed on a class basis in arbitration – and when the defendant sought to overturn this ruling in district court, the trial court sided with the plaintiffs. Subsequently, the defendant appealed this ruling and the 3rd Circuit reversed and remanded, finding that the decision lies with the courts. The United States Supreme Court then declined to hear the case on appeal. After the case was remanded, the district court granted Robert Half’s motion to dismiss, finding that parties cannot be compelled to submit to class wide arbitration unless there is a contractual basis for concluding such.
The plaintiffs appealed this decision yet again, and the 3rd Circuit recently ruled against them, finding it had already “explicitly decided,” in a precedential opinion in this same case, that the question of arbitrability of class claims is for the court, not the arbitrator, to decide.
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At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, we routinely handle FLSA claims involving unpaid overtime. Our respected Philadelphia wage dispute lawyers are prepared to answer whatever questions you may have. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.