Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that businesses can force workers to settle disputes with arbitration and virtually shuts workers out of the courtroom banning class action lawsuits.
In a 5-4 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 allows employers to require one-on-one arbitration hearings. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Gorsuch’s decision “egregiously wrong” in a highly critical dissent that she read from the bench, a relatively rare move that signals strong opposition.
Ginsburg argued that the majority opinion violates workers’ legal right to engage in collective action. She wrote, “The inevitable result of today’s decision will be the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.” Her dissent was joined by the court’s three other liberal justices: Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.
Gorsuch’s decision caps a long run of Supreme Court decisions that have greatly expanded companies’ ability to require customers and employees to sign contracts that mandate arbitration, instead of allowing them to pursue claims in open court. Unlike court rulings, decisions made by arbitrators are usually kept private, making it difficult for other employees or customers to learn about wrongdoing. And unlike judges, arbitrators are generally paid by the companies that use their services. There is usually no right to appeal an arbitrator’s decision. [..]
Ginsburg compared contracts that force workers into individual arbitration to the “yellow dog” contracts that once blocked workers from joining unions. She argued that the outcome of Monday’s decision is easy to predict. “Employers, aware that employees will be disinclined to pursue small-value claims when confined to proceeding one-by-one, will no doubt perceive that the cost-benefit balance of underpaying workers tips heavily in favor of skirting legal obligations,” she wrote.
With the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Court, the writing was on the wall for this ruling and other to come
On the first day of Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, one of the stars of the show wasn’t the Supreme Court nominee, but Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island senator and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Looking back on the lopsided record of the Roberts court, Whitehouse felt compelled to remind Gorsuch of the legal and political reality he was about to join — one where a sizable portion of the court’s 5-to-4 rulings have gone to “distinct interests” that have prevailed over everyday people. Once he ran down the stats and the list of cases one by one, Whitehouse added: “That’s an easy 16-to-zero record for corporations against humans.”
Remember it was Gorsuch who ruled that a truck driver should have froze to death in his broken down rig.