In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled recently that an employer can enforce an arbitration agreement with a worker with respect to claims alleging violations of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Section 1981 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in the making and enforcement of contracts, including contracts for employment.

The ruling by the appeals court in Lambert v. Tesla, Inc. affirms a federal trial court decision finding that a plaintiff could be compelled to arbitrate his Section 1981 racial discrimination claim based on a provision in his employment contract requiring that the parties submit to arbitration “all disputes arising between them.”

In reaching its conclusion, the Ninth Circuit applied the same reasoning it previously laid out in its 2003 ruling in EEOC v. Luce, Forward, which found, albeit reluctantly, that employees can be required to arbitrate employment discrimination claims arising under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Ninth Circuit thus joins at least one other appeals court in specifically ruling that Section 1981 claims may be subjected to arbitration. We are not aware of any rulings to the contrary. 

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is available online.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.