On January 31, 2020, a U.S. District Court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) against arbitration agreements governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).  As enacted, AB 51 would prohibit employers from conditioning employment (including continued employment) or employment-related benefits on an individual signing a mandatory arbitration agreement for disputes arising under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or the California Labor Code. The State of California (“the State”) appealed the District Court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On May 18, 2020, the State filed a 66-page opening brief with the Ninth Circuit. The State raises four main arguments, with the thrust being that the District Court erred when it concluded that AB 51 was likely preempted by the FAA.

The State sets forth several arguments regarding why FAA preemption does not apply, with an emphasis on the argument that the AB 51 does not implicate the FAA because the FAA applies to arbitration agreements whereas AB 51 applies to employer policies and practices, particularly practices relating to “forc[ing] workers into waivers as a condition of employment . . .” In other words, the State attempts to draw a distinction between regulating agreements and regulating conduct.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is slated to file its Answering Brief on June 17, 2020.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor the litigation involving AB 51 and related issues pertaining to arbitration agreements. If you have questions about arbitration agreements or related information, reach out to a Jackson Lewis attorney.

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Photo of Sierra Vierra Sierra Vierra

Sierra Vierra is an associate in the Sacramento, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management in civil litigation and administrative proceedings involving employment law matters, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, benefits, and a wide range of wage and hour issues.

Sierra Vierra is an associate in the Sacramento, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management in civil litigation and administrative proceedings involving employment law matters, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, benefits, and a wide range of wage and hour issues. She litigates in federal and state courts, including class and representative actions, and represents employers in administrative proceedings. She also provides preventive advice and counsel on best practices.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Sierra clerked for the Honorable Joe B. Brown and the Honorable John S. Bryant, United States Magistrate Judges for the Middle District of Tennessee.

While in law school, Sierra received the highest grade in 12 courses. Sierra also served as an associate editor of the University of Illinois Law Review and as the editor-in-chief and administrative law columnist for the Illinois Law Update section of the Illinois Bar Journal. She also worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant and represented clients in connection with the University of Illinois Civil Litigation Clinic.

Before entering law school, Sierra worked as a paralegal at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Office of General Counsel, where she supported civilian personnel litigation, government procurement, environmental compliance, intellectual property, Freedom of Information Act compliance, and government ethics teams.