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The Sixth Circuit & Bristol-Myers Squibb – What’s in Store for the Future of Collective Actions?

By Robert Morelli

August 9, 2021

With Canaday v. The Anthem Companies, Inc., Case No. 20-5947, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is set to answer a question that has plagued federal courts in recent years: Does the Supreme Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court mean that courts cannot assert jurisdiction over out-of-state plaintiffs’ claims in a collective-action because they do not arise out of or relate to employer-defendants’ contacts with the forum state? The Court held oral arguments on June 10, 2021.

This is a question of first impression for any Federal appellate court. Most federal district courts have answered this question in the affirmative. However, there remains a healthy number of decisions finding that the FLSA’s collective action provisions are not affected by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court. See, e.g., Hammond v. Floor & Decor Outlets of Am., Inc., No. 3:19-cv-01099, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84203 (M.D. Tenn. May 13, 2020).

A decision from the Sixth Circuit finding Bristol-Myers applicable to the FLSA would provide multi-state employers with a procedural tool to limit nationwide collective actions. On the other hand, workers’ attorneys are likely to use such a decision as a weapon and employ small-scale, limited “state-wide” classes to circumvent the Bristol-Myers holding. This can be vastly more costly for an employer to defend. As such, employers need to think carefully about whether Bristol-Myers offers the reprieve it may seem to at first glance.

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