Welcome Back, Arbitration?

I think the rumors of the demise of employment arbitration might have been exaggerated. I for one am guilty of presuming arbitration was dead. And who can blame me, what with the California courts and the 9th Circuit?

Well, today, the U.S. Supreme Court breathed new life into employment arbitration. The Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts California case law prohibiting arbitration agreements that exclude class actions.

So, if arbitration agreements can require only individual arbitration, that means that employers may avoid those expensive California wage and hour class actions by properly implementing arbitration agreements.

The interesting question that the Supreme Court did not decide today is what about California case law imposing lots of other conditions and burdens on employment arbitration. The "Armendariz" line of cases impose special burdens on arbitration that do not apply equally to other kinds of contracts. If you read Concepcion a certain way, Armendariz will not be around long. For example consider this statement in the opinion:

Parties could agree to arbitrate pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or pursuant to a discovery process rivaling that in litigation. Arbitration is a matter of contract, and the FAA requires courts to honor parties’ expectations. Rent-A-Center, West, 561 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 3). But what the parties in the aforementioned examples would have agreed to is not arbitration as envisioned by the FAA, lacks its benefits, and therefore may not be required by state law.

Of course, I've been wrong before. Like when I thought arbitration was dead.

The case is AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion and the opinion is here.