United States Supreme Court Gives Union Workers The Shaft
The United States Supreme Court in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, 129 S. Ct. 1456 (2009) by a 5-4 vote held that a provision in a collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") which clearly and unmistakeably requires employees to arbitrate their statutory discrimination claims is enforceable and precludes employees from asserting their statutory claims in state or federal courts. In laymans terms what this means is that if you are in a union and through bargaining the union agrees to settle all employment claims through arbitration, your sole remedy as a union employee is to arbitrate the claim. You will be forever barred from filing a claim in any federal or state court.
This decision does not affect employees who are not in a union as they have not bargained through their representatives the terms of their employment. The types of claims involved could include sexual harassment, gender discrimination, age discrimination, racial discrimination. Americans with Disabilities, age discrimination, religious discrimination, retaliation claims and sexual orientations claims.
The Court did hold that the Agreement to arbitrate must be "clear and unmistakable". One issue the Court did not address is what happens if the Union does not take the employees claim to arbitration? There are two ways to interpert the Court's decision in Pyett, one the employee would have no further remedy or in that case the employee court take the case to state or federal court, however the latter seems less likely under Pyett.