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14 Penn Plaza, LLC v. Pyett

United States Supreme Court
556 U.S. 247, 129 S.Ct. 1456, 173 L.Ed.2d 398 (2009)


The plaintiffs worked as night lobby attendants for 14 Penn Plaza LLC (Penn) (defendant), a New York City office building. The plaintiffs were members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), then the exclusive bargaining representative on behalf of New York City building-services employees. Under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 159(a), SEIU had sole discretion to negotiate with members’ employers regarding the terms and conditions of employment. SEIU signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on the plaintiffs’ behalf that included a mandatory arbitration clause for certain employment discrimination claims. In August 2003, after obtaining SEIU’s consent, Penn contracted with a security-services provider to hire security guards for its building’s lobby and entrances. As a result, the plaintiffs were no longer needed as lobby staff. Penn reassigned them to different jobs. According to the plaintiffs, the reassignments resulted in lower wages, were less desirable, and caused emotional distress. SEIU filed grievance charges on the plaintiffs’ behalf, alleging that the plaintiffs were reassigned because of their age. When the grievance process proved unsuccessful, SEIU requested arbitration under its collective bargaining agreement with Penn. During arbitration proceedings, SEIU withdrew the age-discrimination claim from arbitration, based on its belief that the claim was unfounded. SEIU proceeded with arbitration on other claims, but the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging unlawful age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Penn sought to enforce the CBA’s mandatory arbitration clause. The district court denied Penn’s motion, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. Penn sought review by the United States Supreme Court, which was granted.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Dissent (Souter, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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