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Neil Gorsuch's First Major Opinion is a Decision Allowing Bosses to Steal Wages from Their Workers

Accepted submission by -- OriginalOwner_ http://tinyurl.com/OriginalOwner at 2018-05-22 11:34:24 from the and-no-one-was-surprised dept.
Career & Education

The Center for American Progress reports [thinkprogress.org]

The Supreme Court held on [May 21] that employers can force their employees to sign away many of their rights to sue their employers. As a practical matter, Monday's decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis [supremecourt.gov] [PDF] will enable employers to engage in small-scale wage theft with impunity, so long as they spread the impact of this theft among many employees.

Neil Gorsuch, who occupies the seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year until Donald Trump could fill it, wrote the Court's 5-4 decision. The Court split along party lines.

Epic Systems involves three consolidated cases, each involving employment contracts cutting off employees' rights to sue their employer in a court of law [thinkprogress.org]. In at least one of these cases, the employees were required to sign away these rights as a condition of starting their job. In another, existing workers were told to sign away their rights if they wanted to keep working.

Each contract contained two provisions, a "forced arbitration" provision, which requires legal disputes between the employer and the employee to be resolved by a private arbitrator and not by a real court; and a provision prohibiting employees from bringing class actions against the employer.

Writing with his trademarked smugness [thinkprogress.org], Gorsuch presents Epic Systems as a simple application of a legal text. "The parties before us contracted for arbitration", he writes. "They proceeded to specify the rules that would govern their arbitrations, indicating their intention to use individualized rather than class or collective action procedures. And this much the Arbitration Act seems to protect pretty absolutely."

It's the sort of statement someone might write if they'd never read the Federal Arbitration Act--the law at the heart of this case--and had only read the Supreme Court's decisions expanding that act's scope.

[...]Epic Systems means that employers who cheat a single employee out of a great deal of money will probably be held accountable for their actions--though it is worth noting that arbitrators are more likely to favor employers [thinkprogress.org] than courts of law, and that they typically award less money to employees when those employees do prevail. The biggest losers under Epic Systems, however, will be the victims of widespread, but small-scale, wage theft.

Via Common Dreams, Public Citizen says Congress Should Overturn Today's U.S. Supreme Court Decision Eroding Workers' Rights [commondreams.org]

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch, and the courts.


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