Continuing a pattern of focusing on non-union employers, the National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint last week against a California gym, 24 Hour Fitness. The Board claims that the company’s arbitration policy is coercive and violates employees’ federally protected right to engage in concerted activity. This charge follows a Board ruling earlier this year that requiring employees to sign arbitration agreements that could prevent concerted action constitutes a violation of federal law.
The complaint stems from an unfair labor practice charge filed by former gym employee, Alton Sanders, who claims that he was illegally prohibited from pursuing a discrimination class action against the company. What makes this case unique is that 24 Hour Fitness gave employees the right to opt out of the mandatory arbitration policy. Within 30 days of receiving the employee handbook, employees have the right under the policy to opt out if they request a form, fill it out, and submit it. Despite the option to opt out, the Board viewed this as a coercive policy that improperly shifted the burden to the employee and did not adequately protect the federal right to engage in concerted activity.