In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has again declared its passion the Federal Arbitration Act, and specifically for 9 USC § 2 - Validity, irrevocability, and enforcement of agreements to arbitrate. Section 2 provides:
A written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction, or the refusal to perform the whole or any part thereof, or an agreement in writing to submit to arbitration an existing controversy arising out of such a contract, transaction, or refusal, shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.
In American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant (2013) __ U.S. __ [No. 12-133) the Supreme Court extended its recent trend of rejecting challenges to the FAA, and arbitration agreements containing class action waivers, holding that a contractual waiver of class arbitration is enforceable under the FAA even where the cost of pursuing individual arbitration claims exceeds the amount in controversy. Although this is not an employment case and the plaintiff was a business entity and not an individual, the holding in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant will likely have a substantial impact on employment class action litigation.
Barring a change in the FAA or a change in the majority bloc of justices on the Supreme Court, there may be only three ways left to avoid class action waivers in employee/employer arbitration agreements: disproving the existence of the agreement; invalidating the agreement under state unconscionability law or some other state law that is generally applicable to all contracts, and not just arbitration agreements; or suing under a federal statute that guarantees the plaintiff's right to bring a class action.
You can read the entire opinion in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant here in PDF.