Employers May Compel Arbitration of Statutory Discrimination Claims Under Certain Collective Bargaining Agreements

May 21, 2009 Advisory
Labor and Employment Advisory April 2009

On April 1, 2009, the United States Supreme Court resolved a long-standing controversy over the arbitration of employment discrmination claims by union-represented employees, ruling that a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that "clearly and unmistakably" requires employees to arbitrate claims under the Age Discrmination in Employment Act ("ADEA") is enforceable as a matter of federal Law. 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, U.S., No. 07-581, 4/1/09.
The 5-4 decision, penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, is based on an action initially brought by three night watchmen who worked at a New York City office building owned and operated by 14 Penn Plaza LLC ("14 Penn Plaza"). The watchmen were direct employees of the contractor Temco Service Industries ("Temco") and represented by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (the "Union"). Under the CBA between the Union and the multi-employer association to which 14 Penn Plaza belonged, union members were required to submit all claims of employment discrmination to binding arbitration pursuant to the CBA's grievance and dispute resolution procedures.