Reviewing a previously conferred arbitration award, a district court in New York granted defendant Sterling Jewelers’ motion to vacate the decision to the extent that it would have allowed class members the opportunity to opt-out. In 2008, plaintiff Laryssa Jock and others sued defendant for sex discrimination. After significant motion practice and discovery that extended multiple years, an arbitrator certified a class for declaratory and injunctive relief claims. The arbitrator subsequently allowed class members the opportunity to opt-out.
On review, defendant first alleged that the arbitrator exceeded its authority to certify a class by binding over 40,000 absent class members, and not just those class members whom had affirmatively opted-in to the class or whom were represented by counsel in the arbitration. The court did not find this argument persuasive noting that all class members agreed to arbitration in prior employment agreements thereby granting an arbitrator the power over absent class members. The court did find, however, that the arbitrator exceeded her authority and manifestly disregarded the law by permitting class members to opt-out of injunctive and declaratory relief based on Rule 23(b)(2). The court found that under Rule 23, “the relief sought must perforce affect the entire class at once.” Instead, the arbitrator failed to consider the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision, whereby “opt-out classes may not be certified for the purposes of seeking classwide injunctive relief.” For these reasons the court vacated the class determination award’s opt-out provision for injunctive and declaratory relief but upheld the rest of the award. Jock v. Sterling Jewelers, Inc., Case No: 08 Civ. 2875 (JSR) (USDC S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2015).