CPR Releases Update to Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol

The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), working with a diverse task force of leaders in employment law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), has launched an updated version of its Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol (the “Protocol”). The Task Force included leading counsel from the plaintiff’s bar, in-house employment counsel, corporate defense attorneys and neutrals (arbitrators and mediators).

The original Protocol was launched in November 2019.  It was reviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in November 2020, in McGrath v. DoorDash, Inc., No. 19-cv-05279 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 5, 2020), who found that “the terms of the Mass-Claims Protocol appear fair.”  Working together over the past 10 months, the Task Force sought to make improvements and further enhance the Protocol. 

An initial set of revisions by the Task Force was released in April 2021, and incorporated CPR’s then newly-launched Administered Employment Arbitration Rules as well as other clarifying changes. See CPR Speaks, April 14, 2021.  Since then, the Task Force has continued to work together to develop the current version of the Protocol, which includes a novel approach to selecting neutrals that will enhance both efficiency and diversity.  The updated version also provides greater detail in describing the mediation process and other procedures.

The procedure outlined in the Protocol applies where it has been incorporated into an agreement between the parties, either before or after a dispute arises, and where there are 30 or more similar cases filed with CPR against one company.

The procedure requires fast track arbitration of randomly selected test cases while proceedings in the other cases are paused. The awards from those cases are anonymized and provided to a mediator to work with the parties and their counsel in trying to identify a global framework for resolving the remaining cases.  If the mediation is successful, each person who brought an arbitration will be presented with an opportunity to settle their case according to the global framework or to proceed with their arbitration. If the mediation fails to identify a global framework, then any of the parties may opt out of the arbitration process and go to court.

Distinguishing features of the Protocol include:

  • Requiring within the Protocol itself that certain due process protections be afforded to employees or others who file cases.
  • A novel fee structure that does not require the company to pay all filing fees up front but instead collects an upfront initiation fee followed by fees paid as each case is addressed.
  • Consistent with CPR’s Diversity Commitment, nominating a diverse pool of arbitrators from which the parties will choose the arbitrators who ultimately will resolve their cases.
  • Innovative mechanisms to encourage all parties to reach a faster resolution of their cases, providing parties with the opportunity and incentives to reach a global framework for resolving all of their cases before proceeding with more arbitrations.

In keeping with its commitment to the parties, CPR sets forth the procedures in detail so that the parties may understand what is expected of them and are provided a practical pathway toward resolution. CPR is also willing to work with the parties on agreed-upon variations to these procedures.

“It has been a privilege to work with and be guided by the experiences and perspectives of this Task Force,” noted Allen Waxman, President & CEO of CPR, adding, “With the benefit of the members’ input, the Protocol offers an innovative procedure for employers and their employees or contractors to resolve their disputes when many arise at once – providing the parties with more options toward finding a resolution.”

Jahan Sagafi, partner of Outten & Golden, Task Force Co-Chair, and a lawyer who frequently represents workers in employment disputes, stated that “while I am very concerned about Supreme Court precedent allowing employers to force workers to submit to individual arbitration, given those realities, CPR’s Protocol provides a fair process to resolve those claims efficiently.  CPR should be commended for considering a variety of perspectives from the Task Force in completing the Protocol.”

“CPR’s Protocol represents a valuable contribution toward the resolution of many similar employment claims,” commented Task Force Co-Chair Aaron Warshaw, a partner in Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a law firm that represents management and companies in labor disputes, “The Protocol is an important option for companies putting in place arbitration programs and one that should be seriously considered.”

“CPR has consistently been a leader in offering innovative ways to resolve disputes,” observed the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis, Task Force member, arbitrator and a retired judge on the U.S. District Court and Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adding, “The Protocol is another such offering for the complex challenges posed by the filing of a mass of cases. Its procedures reflect careful considerations to foster resolution in a fair and efficient fashion. In addition, the Protocol’s commitment to greater diversity in the pool of candidates who will be selected to arbitrate cases is also a meaningful step in addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the field of ADR.”

For more information, see the File a Case or Employment Disputes sections of CPR’s website, or contact Helena Tavares Erickson at herickson@cpradr.org.  Also review Frequently Asked Questions for the Protocol.

ABOUT CPR

Established in 1977, CPR is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the prevention and resolution of conflict to better enable purpose.

The CPR Institute drives a global prevention and dispute resolution culture through the thought leadership of its diverse member companies, leading mediators and arbitrators, law firms, individual practitioners, and academics. It convenes committees to share best practices and develop innovative tools. It connects thought leaders through global, regional, and smaller events. It publishes a monthly journal on related topics and advocates for expanding the capacity for dispute prevention and resolution globally through a variety of initiatives.

CPR Dispute Resolution provides leading edge dispute management services – mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation, dispute review boards and others – as well as training and education. It is uniquely positioned to resolve disputes by leveraging the resources generated by the leaders who participate in the CPR Institute.  It has deep experience in dispute management, a deep bench on its global Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, and deep expertise across a variety of subject areas.

Visit cpradr.org to learn more.

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No Notice: NJ Federal Court Declines to Compel Arbitration

By Elena Gurevich

Morgan Stanley has lost a bid to compel arbitration against a former employee.

A New Jersey federal district court ruled that the arbitration agreement circulated by the company via email could not be constituted as adequate notice, and therefore was not binding on the plaintiff.

This is not the first time a New Jersey court has struck down a motion to compel arbitration. There seems to be a trend in the approach that New Jersey state and federal courts take in examining the ADR process. The courts are looking closely at arbitration clauses in light of the state’s consumer protection and employment discrimination laws. See “Examining New Jersey’s Arbitration Scrutiny,” CPR Speaks blog  (July 12, 2016)(available at http://bit.ly/2GMH0A5).

In Schmell v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Civ. No. 17-13080 (D.C. N.J. March 1)(available at http://bit.ly/2FZnmiY), the court did not even look at the cases Morgan Stanley relied on, saying that the fact the plaintiff—a senior vice president in the financial services company’s Red Bank, N.J., office—had notice of the agreement was in dispute.

The court found that the defendant company’s evidence that the plaintiff was working and accessing emails on the day the email in question was sent could not be considered as proof of adequate notice.

U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson also found that the plaintiff’s certified statements that he had no recollection of receiving and viewing the email were indicative of the fact that there had been no meeting of the minds, and therefore no mutual assent to the agreement.

Noting the plaintiff’s certification, the opinion also stated that the email notification and the plaintiff’s continued employment did not constitute notice, despite contrary case law. Therefore, Thompson reasoned, the court did not have to “consider whether this dispute falls within the scope of the Arbitration Agreement.”

She declined to compel arbitration, rejecting Morgan Stanley’s motion. The firm had fired the plaintiff last October, alleging discrimination for past conduct involving drug and alcohol abuse that the plaintiff detailed in a book about his life. The Thompson opinion states that the plaintiff was terminated even though he had made the changes to the book that Morgan Stanley had demanded he make, in order to continue working at the company.

According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Joshua Bauchner, a partner in the Woodland Park, N.J., office of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, no notice of appeal has been filed in the case. Attorney for Morgan Stanley, Kerrie Heslin, a partner in Chatham, N.J.’s Nukk-Freeman & Cerra, has not responded to an email request for comment.

The New Jersey treatment of arbitration agreements continues to evolve. A December attempt to make legislative changes died in committee, but it is likely that similar initiatives will emerge.

A Senate bill attempted to bar provisions in employment contracts that waive rights or remedies as well as agreements that conceal details relating to discrimination claims. Though the bill didn’t mention arbitration, the accompanying statement makes its intention clear, noting that “provision in any employment contract or agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment, including claims that are submitted to arbitration, would be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.”

The proposal can be found here: http://bit.ly/2IEKtBl.

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The author is a CPR intern.