Lauren Teukolsky’s commentary was featured in a recent Law360 article on the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling that California’s A.B. 51 is preempted by federal law. AB 51 prohibited employers from forcing employees to give up their civil rights, such as the right to a jury trial and the right to appeal an adverse decision, as a condition of employment. The ruling, a reversal of the Ninth Circuit’s own prior decision in 2021, is a significant blow to the state’s workers.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed A.B. 51 into law in 2019, making it illegal for employers to force individuals to waive their right to bring civil rights cases in court as a condition of employment. Arbitration agreements typically stipulate that all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. A.B. 51 was meant to ensure that employees were not coerced into signing away their rights, and that all waivers of these significant rights were voluntary.
Last year, a three judge Ninth Circuit panel voted to revisit a 2021 decision in which it partially reversed an injunction that stopped California from enforcing A.B. 51. Last month, the panel found that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted A.B. 51, nullifying the law in most situations and allowing California’s corporations to once again force workers to sign arbitration agreements waiving their civil rights.
Law360’s article features analysis and advice from management-side and workers- side attorneys on how corporations and workers’ advocates should respond to the Ninth Circuit’s decision. In the article, Ms. Teukolsky advises plaintiffs’ lawyers to be extremely cautious when advising clients on arbitration agreements:
"’Plaintiff-side employment attorneys need to think very carefully before they advise an employee to refuse to sign one of these arbitration agreements,’ Teukolsky said. ‘I think you need to advise them: you may lose your job over this. Is that a risk you're willing to take?’" Ms. Teukolsky speaks from experience: she filed one of the only cases under A.B. 51 after her client was fired for expressing opposition to signing away her rights.
To read the article in its entirety, click here. For the Court’s opinion holding that A.B. 51 is preempted, click here.
If you have concerns about an arbitration agreement your employer has recently asked you to sign, click here to get in touch with our office.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.