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California Federal Court Stays SOX Claim Pending Arbitration of Related Claims

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stayed a plaintiff’s whistleblower retaliation claim under SOX (which was not subject to mandatory arbitration) while granting a motion compelling arbitration of the plaintiff’s remaining employment discrimination and retaliation claims. Anderson v. Salesforce.com, Inc., No. 18-cv-06712-PJH.

Background

Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated after he raised concerns about his employer’s accounting practices. He subsequently filed suit in the Northern District of California asserting ten causes of action under the FMLA and California law for various forms of employment discrimination and retaliation, and an eleventh cause of action under SOX for whistleblower retaliation. While employed, the plaintiff had signed an arbitration agreement in which he agreed to “resolve by arbitration all claims or controversies, past, present, and future” that he may have against Defendant. However, as Dodd-Frank invalidated pre-dispute arbitration agreements regarding whistleblower claims under SOX, 18 U.S.C. §1514A(e)(2), the employer moved to compel arbitration only of the first ten causes of action, and to stay the SOX claim pending resolution of the arbitration.

Ruling

The court granted the motion to compel arbitration and stayed the SOX claim pending resolution of the arbitration. In granting the motion to compel arbitration, the Court found that a valid and enforceable agreement to arbitrate existed between the parties and that the claims at issue fell squarely within the scope of the agreement. The Court also granted the employer’s motion to stay the non-arbitrable SOX claim, because that claim arose from the same conduct as Plaintiff’s arbitrable claims. The Court reasoned that allowing the arbitration to run its course would simplify issues of law or questions of fact relating to the SOX claim in future proceedings.

Implications

This is a win for the employer, as it was able both to enforce its arbitration clause and avoid litigating essentially the same set of facts in two places at once. Moreover, to the extent the employer establishes meritorious defenses to the other claims in arbitration, those defenses may have res judicata and/or collateral estoppel effects on the stayed SOX claim.

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Pinny Goldberg Labor and Employment Lawyer Proskauer Rose Law Firm
Associate

Pinny Goldberg is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Pinny represents employers in a broad array of matters before federal and state courts, FINRA and other arbitration panels, and administrative agencies, including the EEOC and its state equivalents, and in pre-litigation negotiations. Matters he works on include discrimination and harassment, wage and hour, wrongful discharge, whistleblowing and retaliation, covenants not to compete, breaches of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and tort and contract claims. 

In...

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Law Clerk

Tony Martinez is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration and Employment Counseling & Training Groups.

Practices

Labor & Employment, Employment Counseling & Training, Employment Litigation & Arbitration

Education

Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, J.D., 2018

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, B.A., 2015

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Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm
Partner

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

312-962-3545
Lloyd B Chinn, Financial, Whistleblower Attorney, Proskauer Law Firm
Partner

Lloyd B. Chinn is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group. He litigates employment disputes of all types before federal and state courts, arbitration tribunals (e.g., FINRA, JAMS and AAA), and before administrative agencies in New York and across the country. Lloyd's practice ranges from litigating compensation disputes to defending whistleblower, discrimination and sexual harassment claims. Although he represents employers in a wide range of industries, including law, insurance, health care, consulting, media,...

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