Professors in Florida Sue to Challenge Florida’s New Employment Arbitration Ban at Public Universities
According to a report from Inside Higher Ed, a group of professors and a labor union have filed a lawsuit challenging the legal validity of a new Florida law that bars workplace arbitration for employees of public universities. The union—the United Faculty of Florida—is suing on behalf of the professors who were laid off by the University of South Florida (USF) earlier this summer. The United Faculty of Florida seeks the restoration of the professors’ employment arbitration rights.
Florida Senate Bill 266 Barred Arbitration for Personnel Decisions at Public Universities
USF is one of many public colleges and universities in our state. In May of 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 266 (SB 266) into law. SB 266 is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that reformed our state’s higher education policies in a number of different ways. Notably, the bill gained some national attention for the funding limits it put on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at public colleges and universities.
SB 266 also contained a key provision that dramatically reformed workplace arbitration for many public university employees, including professors. Broadly defined, arbitration is a method of resolving disputes outside of the courts, whereby both parties agree to abide by the decision of the arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. As signed into law, SB 266 prohibits faculty tenure, firing, and other personnel decisions from being arbitrated.
Labor Union is Suing to Challenge Validity of the Arbitration Ban
A federal lawsuit has been filed by the United Faculty of Florida—a labor union that represents more than 25,000 members—challenging the validity of SB 266’s workplace arbitration provisions. The lawsuit is focused on USF, though it could have far broader implications. Notably, the collective bargaining agreement between the USF and its union includes a clause that requires all “adverse personnel decisions” to go “before a neutral arbiter.”
The complaint filed by the labor union contends that the prohibition on arbitration infringes upon the union members’ Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. They argue that public university presidents—who they argue are, by definition, non-neutral—have near unchecked authority to impact members’ employment rights and tenure.
Lawsuit Also Cites Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), Possible Preemption of State Law
The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) is a federal law that was enacted nearly 100 years ago to help promote the enforceability of arbitration agreements in contracts. It was established, in large part, to counteract a purported judicial hostility towards arbitration. Here is a key thing to know: The FAA can preempt state law when there’s a conflict between the two. If a state law inhibits the enforcement of arbitration agreements or treats them differently from other contracts, the FAA, as a federal law, could potentially override or “preempt” state law.
Get Help From an Employment Arbitration Lawyer in Florida
Employment law is complicated. There are a number of different scenarios in which a worker may run into any issue related to arbitration. If you have any specific questions or concerns about a workplace arbitration manner, please do not hesitate to contact a Florida employment law attorney.