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Teamwork Encouraged, But Not When It Comes to Class Action Lawsuits

“There is strength in numbers.”  “Teamwork makes the dream work.”  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  You’ve heard these quotes before and many like them probably a thousand times. 

teamwork

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They are applicable to so many situations, whether it is in the advancement of social causes, providing motivation for concerted athletic achievement, or advancing successful business objectives and goals.   Heck, cooperation and working together are essential even for the most mundane of tasks:

Got to go to Costco on a dreaded Saturday?  Here’s the plan: I drop off you and Kid #1 to get a head start, me and Kid #2 find parking, you take the food aisles and I get the toiletries and cleaning supplies, meet at checkout, I go get empty boxes for our purchases and Costco pizza for the starving kids while you pay, and then we all leave in under a half hour.  Everyone ready?  Ok, let’s do this.

Not only do we use teamwork in our daily personal and professional lives, but we like to see it conveyed on the big screen.  In fact, most movies extol the virtue of collaboration and cooperation for this very reason.  With the advent of so many superhero and big franchise movies recently, this theme has only become more prevalent.

Teamwork in Epic Movies

For example, take some of the highest grossing movies so far in 2018.  Incredibles 2 just opened to record numbers.  Although it is about a specific family unit, the concept of working together against a common enemy is existent throughout.  I mean, one of the marketing campaigns in advance of the movie was “Incredible Teamwork.”  Enough said.

Avengers: Infinity War is the ultimate team-up movie, where more, not less, is more.  Ready Player One, despite the title, focuses on the “High Five” team concertedly attempting to overthrow the big, bad corporation.  Black Panther and Solo: A Star Wars Story, may be named after singular characters, but the movies themselves focus on how these two individuals grew and learned from their experiences with their respective “team” of supporting characters.

Ocean’s 8 is a heist movie, naturally evoking the importance of each character’s contribution to the ultimate objective.  Even Deadpool 2, which somewhat makes fun of the “team” concept in typical Deadpool fashion (no further spoilers, you’ll need to see it to understand what I mean), introduced the “X-Force” squad to moviegoers.

When it comes to running a business, employers also want their employees to work as a team to efficiently and successfully achieve the company’s objectives.  However, one area where employers aren’t that keen on employees working together is in the context of class-action lawsuits. Luckily for employers, the U.S. Supreme Court came out with a decision last month clarifying certain uncertainties on that front.

Epic Teamwork in Arbitration

Specifically, in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, the Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision, upheld mandatory arbitration agreements prohibiting employees from brining employment claims on a class or collective basis, resolving a difference of opinion in the courts below.

Prior to the Epic decision, certain circuits had held that the right to bring a class or collective action was protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.  Other circuits determined that the Federal Arbitration Act required courts to enforce written arbitration agreements pursuant to the terms set forth therein.

The Supreme Court’s decision is an important decision for employers as it makes clear that a well-drafted, mandatory arbitration agreement containing class or collective action waivers is enforceable.  While certain states do have state laws prohibiting class waivers in connection with specific actions, for those employers who believe arbitration is the best method to resolve employment disputes, the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the employer’s right to mandate individualized arbitration of most claims.

Consequently, employers should determine whether they have current and valid arbitration agreements, or whether they should be implemented on a going forward basis.  It is important to note that appropriately drafted arbitration agreements will be key in upholding its enforceability, so employers should determine whether they need to consult with counsel to ensure their agreements are correctly drafted.

One other key bit of advice.  When you have your employees put their hands together and yell “Go Team!” during the weekly meeting, I wouldn’t chime in and yell “But No Class Actions!”  Maybe just whisper it to yourself when everyone leaves.