The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the curtain on its new term Monday by rejecting several notable employment appeals, including a petition by Sterling Jewelers seeking to limit when workers can pursue class arbitration.
The justices without comment denied a petition for certiorari by Sterling Jewelers that sought to overturn a Second Circuit decision holding that a class of about 70,000 women could collectively pursue claims in arbitration that their careers were knocked off course by discriminatory pay and promotion policies. The appellate court's ruling had affirmed a decision by the arbitrator in Sterling's case to certify the arbitral class of female Sterling retail employees that included those who didn't explicitly opt in to the long-running case, which dates to 2005.
In doing so, the Second Circuit reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff excluding all but the few hundred women who specifically asked to join the dispute. The panel found the other tens of thousands of absent class members agreed to be bound by arbitrators' rulings interpreting their arbitration agreements with Sterling, saying the arbitrator acted within her authority when she blessed the broader class in 2015.
Sterling's cert petition had asked the justices to consider whether arbitrators can allow class arbitration that binds all parties as well as "absent" class members without finding they consented to the process.
Although it rejected Sterling's appeal, the high court has tackled the issue of class arbitration several times over the past decade.
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