The former employees of a waste management company sued their former employer for violations of various federal and state labor laws. The company sought to compel arbitration and dismiss the complaint, relying on an arbitration agreement into which the former employees’ union had entered with the company more than 10 months after the former employees had left the company and commenced litigation. The court found that the determination regarding whether the employees were parties to the agreement was a “threshold inquiry [and] is the type usually decided by a court unless the parties have ‘clearly and unmistakably’ agreed to arbitrate that issue.” Finding no clear agreement to consign such threshold inquiries to the arbitrator, the court went on to hold that the arbitration agreement applied only to “present and future employees,” not past employees, and therefore did not bind the plaintiffs. The court distinguished Raymond v. Mid-Bronx Haulage Corp., No. 1:15-cv-05803 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 2, 2017), in which the court held that a union contract may require past employees to submit their claims to arbitration. Raymond‘s holding was conditioned on the employee still being a member of the union. In addition, the arbitration agreement in Raymond explicitly applied to “past employees.” Here, no such explicit language was included in the arbitration agreement, nor were the past employees still members of the union. As such, they were not parties to, and therefore not bound by, the agreement to arbitrate. The court therefore denied the motion to compel arbitration.
Orlando v. Liberty Ashes, Inc., No. 1:15-cv-09434 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2020).