Who Decides What? A Review of Last Week’s U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Employers

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In This Alert:

I. Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson

On June, 21, 2010, in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, the United States Supreme Court held that when an employee signs an arbitration agreement that contains an “express, unequivocal agreement to arbitrate” an arbitrator gets to determine the overall enforceability of the agreement (e.g., whether there was “duress,” “a meeting of the minds,” “sufficient consideration,” etc.). In this disappointing decision for plaintiffs’ employment lawyers nationwide, the Court held 5 to 4 that the only question a court will be permitted to consider regarding an arbitration agreement is whether the agreement contains an “express, unequivocal agreement to arbitrate.” If such an agreement is deemed to exist, all other issues, including the overall enforceability of the agreement, must be resolved by an arbitrator.....

II. Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

On June 24, 2010, in Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Supreme Court issued the final labor and employment law decision for its 2009-2010 term, declining to recognize a federal tort cause of action against an international union for inciting a local union to violate the terms of its collective bargaining agreement. In addition, the Court ruled that a dispute between an employer and a union regarding the ratification date of a bargaining agreement (“CBA”) is a matter for a federal court, not an arbitrator, to decide.......

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