A U.S. Court of Appeals determined that arbitration on an individual basis is the proper forum for a participant’s claim that Charles Schwab breached its fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transaction under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) by holding proprietary funds in its 401(k) plan.
On the same day the Ninth Circuit denied arbitration in Munro v. University of Southern California, a district also denied a motion to compel arbitration of a former employee’s ERISA breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims in Brown v. Wilmington Trust, N.A., No. 3:17-cv-250 (S.D. OH July 24, 2018).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s opinion that the University of Southern California could not compel arbitration of ERISA claims brought by its employees despite the fact that the parties entered into a broad arbitration agreement. Munro v. University of Southern California, No. 17-55550 (July 24, 2018). The reason? The agreement did not extend to claims brought on behalf of the employees’ retirement plan.
In a 5-4 decision written by newcomer Justice Gorsuch, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld employment agreements that require employees to individually arbitrate disputes with their employers.
The May 21, 2018, opinion in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis resolves a trio of cases before the Supreme Court in which employees brought suits against their employers alleging state and federal wage and hour violations. In each situation, the employees had signed contracts agreeing to resolve any employment-related disputes in individualized arbitration. Nevertheless, they sought to litigate their claims in class or collective actions.