January 23, 2009
On Monday, December 1, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett. The Supreme Court here considers the problem of collective bargaining agreements which waive an employee's right to a judicial forum. The case comes to us from Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. Three members of that union were replaced as night watchmen by new, younger employees in 2003 and reassigned to other duties. The collective bargaining agreement in force specified arbitration as the sole remedy for discrimination claims, explicitly including statutory claims of age discrimination. The union, however, declined to arbitrate the plaintiffs' statutory claims, and so plaintiffs filed suit against their employer for age discrimination in the Southern District of New York. The District Court denied motions to dismiss or compel arbitration, following a Second Circuit precedent that a Union cannot waive its members' right to a judicial forum for statutory claims, and on appeal the Second Circuit stood by its precedent and affirmed. The Supreme Court now considers whether an arbitration clause in a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement clearly waiving an employee's right to a judicial forum for statutory discrimination claims is enforceable. Raymond LaJeunesse, Vice President and Legal Director of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, discusses the case.
Oral Argument - December 1, 2008: