For the second time in seven months, a National Labor Relations Board judge has struck down a Brius home’s requirement that employees waive their right to take legal action against the company as a condition of employment.
Judge Ariel Sotolonga ruled last week that the Four Seasons Healthcare & Wellness Center in North Hollywood (Calif.) violated federal labor law by mandating that all employment disputes go to binding arbitration.
He also ruled that the home’s written policy illegally gave the impression that workers did not have the right to file complaints with the labor board, a federal agency charged with protecting employees’ rights.
The case involved Ana Cruz, a former Brius employee, who claims the Brius home violated laws governing minimum wage, overtime pay, and rest breaks.
Cruz filed a class action lawsuit in 2015 against Brius, but the company’s lawyers convinced a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to toss out her lawsuit based on Brius’ mandatory arbitration policy, which every employee was required to sign.
However, Judge Sotolonga ruled that the labor board has been clear that employers cannot bind workers to settle disputes through arbitration as a condition of employment.
He ordered the Brius nursing home to:
- Rescind its mandatory arbitration policy
- Inform current and former employees that the policy has been rescinded
- Notify the superior court that it has rescinded the arbitration policy and no longer opposed Cruz’s legal action based on the policy.
- Reimburse Cruz for attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses incurred in opposing Brius’ attempt to dismiss her lawsuit.
The ruling is nearly identical to a decision NLRB Judge Raymond Green issued last year invalidating a mandatory arbitration policy at Brius-operated Montecito Heights Healthcare & Wellness Center.
Although the National Labor Relations Board has been consistent in protecting workers from mandatory arbitration clauses, that protection is in jeopardy. Judge Sotolonga noted in his ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case that hinges on whether employers can mandate arbitration to settle employee disputes. If the high court sides with employers, workers across the country may find themselves having to sign away their right to sue their employer as a condition of getting a job.