The National Labor Relations Board (the Board) issued a 3–1 decision in Cordúa Restaurants, Inc., 368 NLRB No. 43 (2019), on Wednesday that provides significant new guidance regarding the intersection of arbitration agreements and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Board’s decision expressly authorizes employers to implement arbitration agreements that include collective waivers in direct response to employees filing a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action. Further, the Board held that warning employees that they will be discharged if they do not accept such an agreement — even with FLSA litigation pending — does not constitute a violation of the NLRA.
In January 2015, seven employees filed an FLSA collective action against Cordúa Restaurants, Inc., a Houston-based restaurant group, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Subsequently, 13 additional employees opted into the lawsuit. In response to the lawsuit, Cordúa implemented a revised mandatory arbitration agreement that was to be executed by all employees. The new agreement expressly required employees to waive FLSA collective rights and arbitrate FLSA claims on an individual basis. Though Cordúa had previously required employees to execute an arbitration agreement that waived class action rights, the new agreement marked the first time that employees were asked to waive collective rights. When the new agreement was presented to employees, managers informed employees that they would not be scheduled for any additional shifts unless and until they executed the new arbitration agreement. The charging parties asserted that both implementing the arbitration agreement because of the litigation and threatening to constructively terminate those who refused to sign the agreement constituted violations of the NLRA.