Employers May Require Union Employees to Arbitrate Statutory Discrimination Claims Under the Arbitration Provision of a Labor Contract

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In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 14 Penn Plaza LLC et al., v. Pyett et al., 2009 U.S. LEXIS 2497 (U.S. Apr. 1, 2009) that a provision in a collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably requires union members to arbitrate claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") is enforceable as a matter of federal law. In other words, a collective bargaining agreement with an arbitration provision that is "clear" and "unmistakable" with regard to its inclusion of ADEA claims requires the employee to arbitrate the claim rather than litigate it in a judicial forum. This decision is likely to open the door for employers to substantially decrease the time expended, expense of and potential exposure from discrimination claims asserted by union workers, provided their negotiated arbitration provisions are carefully drafted.

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