No shocking outcome here. In Gaffers v. Kelly Services, Inc., Case No. 16-2210 (6th Cir. Aug. 15, 2018), the Sixth Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis, 138 S. Ct. 1632 (2018) [which we blogged here] applies to claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Gaffers itself was a garden-variety FLSA collective action in which a call center worker argued that he was not properly paid for the time it took him to log on and off the network each day. He sought to bring a collective action under the FLSA on behalf of himself and thousands of other call center workers, and 1,600 of those workers opted into the litigation. While the named plaintiff had not signed an arbitration agreement, about half the opt-in class members did. Those agreements provided that wage and hour claims must be arbitrated on an individual basis.
The plaintiffs argued before the district court, prior to Epic Systems, that the arbitration agreements violated both the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the FLSA. The court agreed that they were barred by the NLRA, finding no need to resolve the FLSA issue, and then refused to enforce them. The employer appealed.
While the case was on appeal, the Supreme Court rendered its decision in Epic Systems. In a concise opinion, the Sixth Circuit found that Gaffers settled the issue of whether the NLRA would bar the agreements – it wouldn’t. Similarly, the court found that nothing in the FLSA made it exempt from the Epic Systems holding, noting specifically that the Supreme Court had already found that Age Discrimination in Employment Act claims, which have the same enforcement provisions, are subject to arbitration. Incidentally, even before Epic Systems, many courts had already found that FLSA claims were arbitrable. See, e.g., Rodriguez-Depena v. Parts Authority, Inc., 877 F.3d 122 (2d Cir. 2017).
The court thus remanded the case to the district court to enforce the agreements. Interestingly, nothing in the opinion addresses what would happen to the plaintiff’s own claim, as he had signed no arbitration agreement, or what would happen to the approximately 800 opt-ins who similarly had signed no such agreements.
The bottom line:
Yes, Epic Systems does apply to FLSA claims.