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The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that an employer may not prohibit employees from pursuing collective action litigation or arbitration for work-related claims. In NLRB v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc., No. 16-1385 (6th Cir., May 26, 2017), a field technician, DeCommer, signed an arbitration agreement when he began working for Alternative Entertainment, Inc. (“AEI”). The agreement required AEI employees to submit all claims against the company to binding arbitration. It also prohibited workers from engaging in collective action. In addition, the company’s employee handbook prohibited AEI workers from discussing matters such as compensation with one another.
During the course of DeCommer’s employment, AEI made several changes to the compensation structure used to pay field technicians. After DeCommer voiced his concerns over the latest round of changes to the compensation structure, he was terminated by AEI. In response to his termination, DeCommer filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).
The NLRB determined that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”):
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(1) By (1) prohibiting James DeCommer from discussing his concerns over changes in compensation with coworkers; (2) implementing rules prohibiting unauthorized disclosure of employee compensation and salary information; and (3) compelling employees, as a condition of employment, to sign arbitration agreements waiving their right to pursue class or collective actions in all forums, arbitral and judicial, the Respondent has violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act. . . .
(2) By discharging James DeCommer for engaging in protected activity, including discussing his concerns about salary, wages, or compensation structures with his coworkers and bringing complaints about those issues to management, the Respondent has violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.