Where a collective bargaining agreement requires wage claims to be arbitrated, the agreement to arbitrate is enforceable so long as relief can be provided within the collective bargaining agreement process.
Under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, when §301 pre-empts a plaintiff’s Massachusetts Wage Act claim, that claim must either be treated as a §301 claim, or dismissed as pre-empted by federal labor-contract law so that parties can utilize the grievance procedure established in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Under Massachusetts law, deference is given to the agreed-to remedies in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Courts ordinarily dismiss Wage Act claims pre-empted by §301 so long as relief can be provided within the CBA process.
Claims must fall within the ambit of the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s grievance procedures. The Collective Bargaining Agreement must not limit or restrict the substantive rights afforded in the Massachusetts Wage Act. Nor shall the Collective Bargaining Agreement afford the arbitrator the power to interpret or apply the law by the terms incorporated in the collective bargaining agreement contrary to the Wage Act.
By agreeing to arbitrate a statutory claim, a party does not forgo the substantive rights afforded by the statute; it only submits to their resolution in an arbitral, rather than a judicial, forum.
Although an employee may be bound by a arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement, it does not preclude that employee from bringing a Wage Act claim against their employer.