“[T]he Supreme Court has dramatically tilted the legal system against the working people, paving the way for corporations to break workplace laws with impunity. … Every American needs to know that the Trump Administration sided not with the workers in this case, but with the corporations that want to strip away workers’ rights.”
The above quote is from a statement issued by Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, following Monday’s Supreme Court’s decision in the Epic Systems v. Lewis et al.case. With its ruling, the Court solidified that corporations, as a requirement of getting a job, can force workers to sign arbitration clauses that take away their right to band together to pursue legal action against the employer.
Forced arbitration hurts workers by taking away their ability to join together in collective or class action suits when they are harmed by employers. Few workers have the ability to take on an employer on their own; almost no workers can afford the high legal fees. That leaves workers with a complaint largely unprotected against possible abuse, workplace retaliation, or termination. As NELP said, “[Forced arbitration] is a backdoor way of repealing laws on the books. Wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-harassment laws, and more – these protections are of little use if workers can’t enforce them.”
Several other members of the Coalition on Human Needs also made statements noting how the Supreme Court’s decision will benefit corporations at the expense of workers:
- Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement, “Private arbitration favors corporations over employees and provides no transparency so that other employees can learn about corporate misconduct,” adding that “employers should not be able to hide behind arbitration clauses when they violate their employees’ civil rights.”
- Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Director of Labor Law and Policy Celine McNicholas noted that the Court’s decision “deals a significant blow to the fundamental rights of workers in this country to join together to address workplace disputes” and that “a worker who is not paid fairly, discriminated against, or sexually harassed, is forced into a process that overwhelmingly favors the employer.”
- Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, saidthe Supreme Court “has taken away a powerful tool for women to fight discrimination at work” and that forced arbitration “will stack the deck in favor of the employer.” The Leadership Conference and the National Women’s Law Center joined an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief on this case, which is available here.
NELP, the Leadership Conference, and EPI all called upon members of Congress to act to restore workers’ rights. Whether they will remains to be seen, but given this Congress’s history of siding with corporations over workers, I wouldn’t expect action any time soon.