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Arbitration of Fiduciary Breach Claim Cannot Be Compelled by Relying on Individual Employment Agreements

April 28, 2022

In Hawkins, et al. v. Cintas Corp., No. 21-3156, __ F.4d __ (2022), plaintiffs brought a class action pursuant to Section 502(a)(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging that their former employer and other fiduciaries breached the fiduciary duties owed to the plan. The employer moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the claims must be arbitrated pursuant to the arbitration provisions in employment agreements signed by plaintiffs. The district court denied the employer’s motion to compel arbitration.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed, acknowledging that this case presented issues of first impression.  According to the Court:

Hawkins demonstrates the scrutiny placed upon arbitration of ERISA claims. Although employees may have signed a broad arbitration agreement, that does not necessarily mean that certain ERISA claims are subject to arbitration. Employers wanting to ensure that ERISA claims brought on the plan’s behalf are subject to arbitration should review their plan documentation to make sure that it sufficiently manifests the plan’s consent to arbitrate. 

As always, please contact the authors or your Miller Canfield attorney if you have any questions.

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