Client Alert: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Arbitration Clauses in Employment Contracts

On Monday, May 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that employers can utilize mandatory arbitration provisions to bar employees from bringing class-action lawsuits over employment disputes.  In reconciling conflicting federal laws, the Supreme Court held that mandatory arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings must be enforced.

As a practical matter, the Court’s decision is a big win for employers.  Companies may include provisions in employment contracts that require employees to bring any dispute through individualized arbitration and bar the filing or joining of a class-action lawsuit.  As compared to arbitrating a single employee dispute, a class-action lawsuit, even a frivolous one, can consume substantial time and resources.  Employers would be wise to consult with an attorney about whether using mandatory arbitration agreements could be beneficial to help limit potential claims and damages over employment related disputes.

The Supreme Court’s decision can be accessed here.

For more information on the history of this case, please see a prior Mallery & Zimmerman blog post.

Telecommuting and the Americans with Disabilities Act

A recent decision from the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that working remotely can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers should always remain cautious about applying rigid and inflexible rules to requests for reasonable accommodations.

In Meachem v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, the Plaintiff was an in-house employment attorney for Memphis Light. After a history of miscarriages, her physician placed her on bed rest for the last 10 weeks of her pregnancy. The Plaintiff requested that she be allowed to work from home as an accommodation. Her employer denied the request. The 6th circuit found that she could perform the essential functions of her job remotely for the applicable time period. It also found that other employees had been allowed to work from home without objection. Therefore, the Court upheld the jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff finding that her employer had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The real lesson from cases such as this is inflexible policies simply do not work with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers need to engage in an interactive process to prove and determine whether or not an accommodation is reasonable and does not create an undue hardship. Time and time again employers apply a policy without thought and are found liable. More specifically to this case, working from home with the technologies of the time, could certainly be found to be reasonable in certain circumstances.  Therefore, carefully consider all aspects of any request before deciding whether or not to deny it. If in doubt, discuss the issue with your attorney.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact its author, Mark Sauer, at 715-8456-8234 or msauer@mzattys.com.

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Wisconsin Federal District Court holds Village Cannot “Banish” Sex Offenders from Community

On April 17, 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin struck down an ordinance restricting the residency of convicted sex offenders in the Village of Pleasant Prairie (the “Village”).  In Hoffman v. Village of Pleasant Prairie, No. 16-CV-697-JPS, 2017 WL 1380560 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 17, 2017), a group of convicted child sex offenders (“Plaintiffs”) challenged a Village ordinance (passed on April 18, 2016) regulating residency for sex offenders within its borders (the “Ordinance”).  The federal Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs holding that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution and violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to equal protection. Read More… “Wisconsin Federal District Court holds Village Cannot “Banish” Sex Offenders from Community”