When it comes to labor and employment law, California may as well be its own country. The intricacies of the Golden State's worker-protection laws--from strictly enforced lunch and break periods to mandatory harassment training for all managers--are well documented. On Aug. 30 California's Supreme Court added yet another wrinkle to the numerous dangers employers with operations in California face.
In Gentry v. Superior Court (Circuit City), the Supreme Court found that even if employees sign an otherwise valid, enforceable arbitration clause that bars them from bringing class claims, they might still be able to pursue wage-and-hour claims on a class basis if the court determines class arbitration is a better way to resolve the dispute.
Judge Marvin Baxter strongly criticized the majority ruling in his dissent, saying it undermined the Federal Arbitration Act, which requires courts to enforce arbitration contracts according to their terms in the absence of a clear violation of law or public policy.
"In effect, the majority holds that, despite [a valid arbitration] agreement, the trial court may certify a class in an overtime wage case in any circumstance where it could otherwise do so," he wrote.