SCOTUS ruling on waivers may boost 'private attorney general' proposals

The Supreme Court Did Workers a Favor

The Supreme Court Did Workers a Favor

While arbitration is generally less costly than the court system, companies often bear the entire cost of the arbitration process.

Requiring workers to press their arbitration cases individually makes it considerably harder for them to fight wage theft and other abuses. "This will stack the deck in favor of the employer".

Wondering what will happen if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires and President Donald Trump gets to pick his successor?

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the contracts are valid under the arbitration law. As the Supreme Court has previously noted, this puts workers in the critical role of private attorney generals.

Shortly after this decision, Conley lifted the hold on the quality assurance workers' class action lawsuit and stated the lawyers representing the quality assurance workers - the same lawyers who represented Lewis - have until June 12 to argue their case. The arbitration agreements exist, and they should be followed unless there's a legal reason not to.

"As a matter of policy these questions are surely debatable", Gorsuch wrote. "But as a matter of law the answer is clear. In the Federal Arbitration Act, Congress has instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms - including terms providing for individualized proceedings".

The majority opinion ruled that forcing workers to raise claims in this setting does not violate the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, even though Section 7 of the act guarantees, alongside collective bargaining and the right to strike, the right "to engage in other concerted activities for the goal of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection". It does not mention class or collective action procedures. In 1925, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which sought to address the animosity some judges had towards arbitration, by requiring judges to treat arbitration agreements like other contracts. "Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees".

Now, to engage in most activities, from signing on to social media to buying a phone or airline ticket to putting a relative in a nursing home, one is provided a forced contract with an individual arbitration clause hiding inside.

She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The cases involve non-unionized workers, but labor leaders said it was representative of how the court sides with business over workers.

Unions are bracing for another Supreme Court case yet to be decided, which could forbid public employee unions from collecting fees from nonmembers to cover the cost of contract negotiations.

Arbitration contracts are a growing trend.

The modern case that opened the door to the flood of arbitration agreements was a 2011 Supreme Court case involving a couple that wanted to bring a consumer class action against AT&T to challenge a practice where cell phone companies offered "free" phones, but then charged customers the sales tax on the full value of the phones.

Conley stated Epic will have two weeks to respond if the quality assurance workers choose to continue to oppose individual arbitration in their argument.

Due to the ruling, for example, an execuitve in a company who discovers that she is paid less than a male colleague for the same work would not be able to join other employees in seeking redress, but would be on her own in company-mandated arbitration. In recent years, employers have included class action waivers in such arbitration agreements.

In arbitration, most claimants are likely to get a hearing- irrespective of the strength of their claim or whether or not they have a lawyer. "This decision thus will not see a huge increase in the use of such provisions, but it does protect employers' settled expectations and avoids placing our nation's job providers under the threat of additional burdensome litigation drain". That is a rather loaded framing, Justice Ginsburg argued in her fervent dissent. Ginsburg called the ruling "egregiously wrong". "Yet, even accepting the court's decisions as they are, nothing compels the destructive result the court reaches today". New York, which overturned a state law limiting the workday to 10 hours on the absurd grounds that the regulations violated workers' "right" to work as long as they want.

A number of fig leaves were carefully placed over this reality by the Gorsuch opinion.

Andrew Pincus, a partner with Mayer Brown International L.L.P.in Washington, D.C., said the ruling "eliminates some confusion that resulted from the NLRB's 2012 decision".

The ruling here came from three different cases against Ernst & Young LLP, Epic Systems Corp. and Murphy Oil USA Inc.

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