NELA’s Spring Seminar will bring together our Wage & Hour Experts to discuss how to practice effectively and creatively in the face of mass arbitrations, new defense bar tactics, worker misclassification, and COVID-19.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrea Hansen
Arbitrator’s dissemination of racist content exposes the threat of concealed prejudice among “neutrals”
Washington, D.C. – September 8, 2020 – The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), the nation’s largest legal association whose members exclusively or primarily represent workers, and its related charitable arm The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy, are urging JAMS, a private dispute resolution provider, to conduct a full assessment of all discrimination cases overseen by Judge Richard Neville. Neville recently distributed via email to 39 recipients a racist essay contending the inferiority of Black Americans. He has since left JAMS.
As a JAMS neutral (arbitrator), Neville decided case outcomes, including employment discrimination cases, many of which are before JAMS instead of a court due to forced arbitration clauses imposed by employers on their employees. Now his neutrality on previous cases, particularly those related to discrimination or involving people of color, must be called into question due to his legitimizing of discriminatory beliefs. Neville’s willingness to share racist rhetoric with colleagues, including another JAMS neutral, under his JAMS email signature also raises concerns about whether the culture at the organization ignores or harbors racism.
While NELA and … Read More
Unilaterally rolled out by EEOC Chair, “pilot” projects hinder employee rights in discrimination cases
For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrea Hansen
Washington, D.C. – August 17, 2020 – The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), the nation’s largest legal association whose members exclusively or primarily represent workers, today urged EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon to discontinue two pilot programs that limit the rights of those who suffer from workplace discrimination, such as sexual harassment or race discrimination.
The impacted programs – conciliation and mediation – are forms of dispute resolution intended to encourage settlement rather than litigation. Despite the EEOC’s mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination, the proposed changes favor employers by limiting investigation, potentially hiding systemic discrimination on the part of a particular employer or industry, and weakening the employee’s ability to obtain relief from the discrimination and fair monetary damages.
While labeled “pilot” projects, with respect to the conciliation program the modifications were implemented nationwide, a departure from typical EEOC protocol. The pilots were executed unilaterally by Dhillon, without input from the other EEOC commissioners on the bipartisan commission. With respect to the changes in the mediation program, there is no plan to increase the number of … Read More
On July 6, 2020, NELA and The Institute joined National Women’s Law Center and 45 other organizations in filing an amicus brief in Pambakian v. Blatt in the 9th Circuit. The amicus brief highlights the inherent problems surrounding forced arbitration, which denies workers access to justice and results in fewer claims, lower chances of recovery for plaintiffs, and lower recovery amounts. Even more importantly for workers who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, arbitration requires secrecy from all parties, preventing survivors from speaking about their experiences and allowing corporations to protect abusers on their payroll. We are deeply grateful to National Women’s Law Center for leading the charge on this brief.… Read More
On July 25, 2018, NELA joined the Economic Policy Institute and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in supporting an amicus brief authored by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) in New Prime, Inc. v. Oliveira, pending currently in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerns whether the Federal Arbitration Act’s (FAA) exemption of “contracts of employment” from its coverage applies to clauses purporting to treat workers as independent contractors, and whether the resolution of that question may properly be delegated to an arbitrator. In addition to arguing that the contract at issue in this case should be exempt under the plain language of the FAA, the amicus brief adds essential context by detailing the independent contractor misclassification problems endemic in the trucking industry and the abuses of workers they engender, in addition to the detrimental effects they have on other employers, state budget and tax coffers, and on employers’ economic incentives to misclassify more drivers. The brief was authored by NELA member Catherine K. Ruckelshaus and Ceilidh Gao of NELP.… Read More
On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, NELA joined the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and a group of over two dozen women’s, employee, and civil rights organizations in supporting the Plaintiff-Appellants in their appeal in Jock, et al. v. Sterling Jewelers, pending currently in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This long-running case involves a challenge to systemic sex discrimination in pay and promotion opportunities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. After being moved from court into arbitration, the plaintiffs in this case argued successfully to the arbitrator that they are entitled to proceed as a class. The defendant convinced the district court to reverse the arbitrator’s decision to certify the class, and the plaintiffs have appealed. Among other important arguments, the amicus brief highlights how essential class actions are to efficiently and effectively addressing pervasive workplace abuses, while also protecting class members from the retaliation they are far too likely to face if forced to proceed individually. The brief was drafted by our colleagues at the NWLC and NELA member Carolyn Wheeler from Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP (Washington, DC).… Read More
NELA was proud to join with our colleagues at the National Employment Law Project and ten labor unions in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 16, 2017, in support of the National Labor Relations Board and employees in three consolidated cases addressing the validity of class, collective, and joint action bans in forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements. Specifically, the cases turn on whether the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Norris-LaGuardia Act (NLGA) make it unlawful for an employer to prohibit its employees from filing legal claims on a joint, class, collective or other group action basis. The brief provides important context regarding the enactment of the NLRA and NLGA in demonstrating that the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection” contained in those statutes includes pursuing joint, class, and/or collective litigation. As such, forced arbitration clauses that prohibit employees from engaging in such activities in any forum, as a condition of employment, are invalid and unenforceable. The amicus brief was drafted by NELA member Michael Rubin and Eric P. Brown (both from Altshuler Berzon LLP, San Francisco, CA), with substantial input from … Read More
On January 19, 2016 NELA joined the National Employment Law Project, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and Towards Justice in filing an amicus brief in support of the Plaintiff-Appellees in Mohamed/Gillette v. Uber.
Our amicus brief makes three key arguments in support of the drivers. First, the brief points out that the provisions of the forced arbitration clauses at issue related to the sharing of fees and costs would make arbitration prohibitively expensive for the drivers, thus preventing them from effectively vindicating their rights under federal law. Second, the brief argues that the forced arbitration provisions are both procedurally and substantively unconscionable under California law, and cannot be saved through the inclusion of an opt-out mechanism that few drivers would understand and most would be unlikely to utilize. Third, the brief identifies the serious problems that would arise if the court adopted the defendants’ proposed rule regarding the severability of unlawful terms in arbitration agreements. Under such a rule, employers would have little incentive to refrain from including unconscionable terms in arbitration agreements, knowing that courts would merely sever the offending terms and enforce the arbitration agreement anyway.
The amicus brief was drafted … Read More
On September 11, 2012, NELA and its associated educational and charitable organization, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy, joined with two dozen workers’ rights organizations to file an amicus brief in support of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) in D.R. Horton v. National Labor Relations Board, currently pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. NELA’s brief urges the Fifth Circuit to affirm the earlier ruling of the Board in D.R. Horton and Michael Cuda, 357 NLRB No. 184 (2012).
The brief argues that requiring workers, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to bring class, collective, joint, or representative actions in any forum violates those workers’ rights under sections 7 and 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The brief discusses the well-settled principle that workers have a substantive right under the NLRA to use the judicial forum to achieve more favorable terms or conditions of employment. In addition, the brief points out that the availability of class actions not only makes vindicating the claims of low-wage workers cost-effective, but also provides an additional layer of protection against retaliation.
The brief further argues that the Board’s conclusions about the NLRA … Read More
On July 30, 2012, NELA, its public interest organization, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy, and the National Employment Law Project (NELP), filed an amicus brief urging affirmance of a district court’s rejection of a collective action ban in an arbitration agreement.
Our brief supports the district court opinion and argues that a prohibition on collective action, as a policy matter, conflicts with the broad remedial goals of the FLSA and prevents employees from vindicating their statutory rights. Depriving employees of their rights to seek redress for wage and hour violations by prohibiting collective action in any forum undermines the wage floor and the policies of the FLSA, and rewards unfair competition by employers engaging in wage theft. We also submit that many employees will not pursue individual cases because (1) the small value of their claims will not support litigation, (2) they simply will not know that their rights are being violated absent FLSA collective action notice, and (3) their fear of retaliation will deter them from stepping forward on an individual basis.
In addition, our amicus brief contends that the district court’s decision is supported by the independent legal ground that a collective action prohibition … Read More
NELA, along with a broad coalition of employee rights and civil rights organizations, including the Asian American Justice Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Employment Law Project, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy, Women Employed, and 9to5, National Association of Working Women, filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to affirm the district court’s refusal to enforce an arbitration agreement containing a class action ban in an employment discrimination case involving Title VII pattern-or-practice discrimination claims. Amici agree with the district court’s holding that pattern-or-practice claims are distinct from individual disparate treatment claims and that arbitration agreements therefore are unenforceable if they preclude plaintiffs from vindicating pattern-or-practice claims. Our brief also contends that vindication of pattern-or-practice claims is vital to achievement of Title VII’s purpose and is largely infeasible on an individual basis due to limitations on the scope of discovery in bilateral adjudications, the substantial costs of proving a pattern-or-practice claim, and limitations on the scope of injunctive relief. Our brief serves to highlight the … Read More
On May 18, 2012, NELA, its public interest organization, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute For Law & Policy, and the National Employment Law Project (NELP), filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to affirm the district court’s rejection of a collective action ban in an arbitration agreement. In this case, Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York held that Ernst & Young’s prohibition of class and collective actions precludes employees from effectively vindicating their statutory rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This is the second case involving collective action bans in the FLSA context in which NELA, The Institute and NELP have filed an amicus brief before the Second Circuit in as many months.
Our amicus brief highlights the important national public policies that support the availability of collective actions under FLSA. We argue that depriving workers of their ability to enforce their rights fully to be paid minimum wage and overtime pay by prohibiting collective actions in any forum undermines the wage protection policies of the FLSA, rewards unfair competition by encouraging employers to engage in wage theft, and violates the public policy Congress sought to implement … Read More