Attorney General Becerra Stands Up for Workers in New Court Brief

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed an amicus brief in support of the rights of workers to take collective action. Attorney General Becerra, along with 16 fellow attorneys general, argues that the right to band together for mutual protection is a core right of hardworking Americans and is protected under federal law. The amicus brief was filed in three similar cases in the U.S. Supreme Court: National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, and Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris. The three cases concern whether collective action waivers that prevent employees from joining together to assert common legal claims are valid.  

"For many hardworking people in California, collective action is their only realistic option to protect themselves from unlawful conditions in the workplace,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "Some employers abuse workers’ bargaining power when they ask employees to waive their rights. But we must protect this fundamental right. We will not accept unlawful or unsafe working conditions, wage theft or any other actions that jeopardize the rights of California workers.”  

Employment arbitration agreements that require employees to waive a right to collective action force workers to individually arbitrate employment disputes. Seeking legal redress as an individual rather than doing so as a unit is often less effective, far more costly, and burdensome for employees. Preventing workers from litigating disputes collectively makes it impossible for some workers to assert their rights. Low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. 

Today’s friend-of-the-court brief supports the perspective that laborers should not be prevented from joining together to enforce their rights. Among other things, the brief explains that allowing laborers to participate in collective action helps maintain lawful standards for wages and working conditions.  

The federal National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees the right to engage in concerted activity by joining together towards a common objective in order to protect themselves in the workplace. In two of the three cases now before the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals concluded that this guarantee in the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from enforcing collective action waivers contained in employment arbitration agreements.

In defending the rights of workers, Attorney General Becerra joins a coalition of Attorneys General from Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Virginia, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

# # #