The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has helped advocate for the rights for consumers nationwide for decades. This year’s decision in the U.S. Supreme Court in Epic Systems v. Lewis, Ernst & Young v. Morris, and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Murphy Oil, is one that the AAJ has highlighted as one particularly damaging to workers, forcing citizens away from the civil justice system and into forced arbitration.
“Breaking with over 80 years of labor law, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision,” the AAJ said in a statement, “allowing corporations to force workers into arbitration, stripping them of the right to bring class actions for labor law violations.”
AAJ CEO Linda Lipsen made the following statement after the ruling was announced:
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a devastating blow to the fundamental rights of workers as more and more corporations move to silence harassed, abused, and mistreated employees by forcing them into arbitration. From employee handbooks to credit card and nursing home contracts, people across the country are having their constitutional rights taken away by powerful corporations.
“Congress needs to take action to restore the rights of all Americans to seek justice when corporations break the law, rather than continue to allow corporations to exploit workers and consumers by hiding behind secretive arbitration.”
In August 2017, AAJ filed an amicus curiae brief in Epic Systems v. Lewis, Ernst & Young v. Morris, and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Murphy Oil strongly urging the Court to uphold the NLRB’s determination that corporate employers cannot use abusive forced arbitration clauses to prohibit employees from joining together to pursue civil rights- and work-related claims.
In 1925, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act, which provides that an agreement to arbitrate a dispute “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable.” Ten years later, Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act, ensuring that employees have the right to work together for “mutual aid and protection.” This May 21, 2018 decision allows employers to include a clause in their employment contracts that requires employees to arbitrate their disputes individually, and to waive the right to resolve those disputes through joint legal proceedings instead. This decision is seen as a huge victory for corporations and others who want to keep their misdeeds out of the public eye and out of the courtrooms, and the AAJ has taken a stand on its impact: wrong for the nation’s employees, and wrong for the civil justice system.
The May 21, 2018, opinion resolved three cases that were argued together on the first day of the term: Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA. Each arose when an employee who had signed an employment agreement that contained an arbitration provision filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to bring both individual and collective claims. The defendants argued that the employees needed to go to individual arbitrations, because of the terms of their arbitration agreements.
Click here to download AAJ’s brief.
My previous blog post on forced arbitration: The Wrong Doers Silver Bullet Forced Arbitration