Following the recent Supreme Court decision allowing companies to require employees waive their rights to arbitrate as a group, many workers and employee advocates worried that their ability to demand changes may be weakened. Often, by joining together to fight discrimination an improper wage and hour practices employees can effect changes that may be more difficult for individuals alone to achieve. Thus, the decision allowing employers to take away the right to collectively arbitrate was seen as a win for many employers. However a recent decision out of the 11th circuit in Atlanta demonstrates that a silver lining exists in this decision.
In Hernandez v. Acosta, three different plaintiffs brought wage complaints against the defendant employer. While they initially filed class action suits, these were dismissed because they had signed mandatory arbitration agreements. The cases were then assigned to arbitration. The arbitrators then sought numerous depositions and allowed extensive discovery – helping to ensure the employees’ claims were adequately and thoroughly adjudicated.
Numerous procedural steps ensued, with the employer now asserting that arbitration is too expensive of a way to resolve fee disputes. The litigation continues, but the matter illustrates that defending individual claims through the arbitration process on a case by case basis may be significantly more expensive that a collective suit. Hence, the threat of having to defend against numerous individual claims and significant costs may end up influencing employers to treat employees fairly, rather than risk numerous claims.4
For more information or if you have a wage and hour question, please contact the experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.