No Class Action: Supreme Court Weighs Whether Workers Must Face Arbitrations Alone

Suing one’s employer can be scary enough, but it’s even scarier doing it alone.

Many employers are increasingly requiring workers to sign agreements requiring them to resolve workplace disputes about anything from harassment to discrimination to wage theft through individual arbitration. In other words, the language does not permit them to join forces with colleagues who might have similar complaints.

Whether such prohibitions on collective arbitration are legal is at issue in a trio of cases heard by the Supreme Court this week. With Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench, many experts say a ruling against the workers in these cases could result in massive changes in how nearly all workplace disputes will be resolved, and how labor laws are enforced.

“Most workers in the United States aren’t even aware of what arbitration is, never mind that they’ve signed this kind of agreement, maybe on their first day at work in a stack of papers, or maybe through clicking a box through their orientation materials,” says Ceilidh Gao, an attorney for the National Employment Law Project, a workers’ rights group.

Gao and others say collective action, whether it’s union organizing or class-action lawsuits, are a key tenet of labor law, with a long history of government protection. They argue employers should not be able to nullify that by inserting a clause in some paperwork.

Gao says most workers drop their cases, instead of going it alone, which means employers aren’t forced to correct systemic workplace violations.

Read the full article on NPR.


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