Supreme Court Ruling Called Blow to Workers’ Rights
NEW YORK – Civil-rights advocates say a Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday will sweep many discrimination and harassment claims against employers under the rug. The ruling in Epic Systems v. Lewis says corporations can require employees to sign arbitration clauses that keep them from joining class-action lawsuits over wage and civil-rights violations, including discrimination and sexual harassment.
Seema Nanda, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says the ruling is particularly troubling in light of the Me Too movement.
“We know that when women are able to band together and bring an action against their employer, they have strength,” she says. “It’s very difficult for employees to go through these things one by one, and arbitration is just not as strong a forum as the courts are.”
Supporters of arbitration say it is cheaper and more efficient than litigation through the courts.
But according to Nanda, arbitration often favors the corporations.
“First of all, it’s just one individual against a company, whereas in a class-action lawsuit, you can have the power of the employees,” she notes. “The rules are much stronger in federal court. Often, the remedies are stronger as well.”
She adds that the corporations often choose the arbitrator, leaving the employee without representation.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, wrote the majority opinion in the five-to-four decision. But as Nanda points out, Gorsuch acknowledged that Congress can act to prohibit corporations from forcing employees to agree to arbitration.
“They can legislate around this decision, which is very troubling and really undermines what we think are employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act,” explains Nanda.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights had joined in an amicus brief filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in the case.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service – NY