What if the Federal Arbitration Act doesn't apply? Then California law takes over. And when California law applies, then California courts' deep abiding love for arbitration comes into play.
The question then, is when the Federal Arbitration Act does not apply. One example is that the Act itself exempts: “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” At the turn of the century, the U.S. Supreme Court held that "workers engaged in commerce" was limited to transportation-type workers, not everyone in business.
The U.S. Supremes have not yet decided what is a transportation-type worker. Is it anyone who drives a truck or vehicle across state lines as part of the job? Or is it someone who is in the trucking business like a mover, bus driver, UPS, etc.?
Well, that's what the Court of Appeal decided in Garrido v. Air Liquide Industrial U.S. LP.
It seems Garrido filed a class action in state court, but signed an arbitration agreement containing a class action waiver. The agreement stated that the Federal Arbitration Act applied. But the superior court refused to enforce the class action waiver, even so. That is because the trial court decided that even under the FAA the agreement would be invalid. Of course, the trial court was wrong. if the FAA applied, the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court both have held that a class action waiver is valid and enforceable.
But the Court of Appeal decided that the FAA did not apply because Garrido's arbitration agreement was not covered by the FAA, as he was a "worker engaged in interstate commerce" by virtue of his job as a truck driver.
Garrido’ s duty as a truck driver was the transportation of goods. Air Liquide cites to no authority holding that a truck driver whose responsibility is to move products across state lines does not fall under section 1 of the FAA. The fact that Garrido transported Air Liquide’s own products (rather than those of an Air Liquide client) is of little consequence: “a trucker is a transportation worker regardless of whether he transports his employer’s goods or the goods of a third party; if he crosses state lines he is ‘actually engaged in the movement of goods in interstate commerce.’” (International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 50 v. Kienstra Precast, LLC (7th Cir. 2012) 702 F.3d 954, 957.)
Thus, because Garrido was a transportation worker, the FAA does not apply to the ADR agreement.
In finding the ADR agreement’s class waiver provision unenforceable, the trial court applied Gentry’s four-factor test. As noted above, these four factors are: “ the modest size of the potential individual recovery,  the potential for retaliation against members of the class,  the fact that absent members of the class may be ill informed about their rights, and  other real world obstacles to the vindication of class members’ rights to overtime pay through individual arbitration.” (Gentry, supra, 42 Cal.4th at pp. 453, 463.) Under Gentry, if the trial court “concludes, based on these factors, that a class arbitration is likely to be a significantly more effective practical means of vindicating the rights of the affected employees than individual litigation or arbitration, and finds that the disallowance of the class action will likely lead to a less comprehensive enforcement of overtime laws for the employees alleged to be affected by the employer’s violations, it must invalidate the class arbitration waiver to ensure that these employees can ‘vindicate [their] unwaivable rights in an arbitration forum.’” (Ibid.)The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly applied that standard to hold that Garrido could maintain his class action in court because his class action waiver was unenforceable under California law.
In this trucking case, there's little the employer could do. But if you are drafting an arbitration agreement or compelling arbitration, do your best to make sure the FAA applies.... or this could happen to you.
This opinion in Garrido is here.