Posted May 21, 2018, 9:55 am CDT
In a 5-4 decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court found that arbitration agreements for individualized proceedings must be enforced under the Federal Arbitration Act.
The action was brought by employees who sought to litigate Fair Labor Standards Act claims, and related state claims, through federal class actions, or collective actions. The parties argued that a “saving clause” in the law removes the mandate if the arbitration agreement violates another federal law, and the agreements in question violated the National Labor Relations Act.
The opinion consolidated three appeals, Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis, Ernst & Young v. Morris and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, finding that Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements written like the ones before the court must be enforced as written. The majority also found that nothing in the National Labor Relations Act suggested that Congress had the intention to displace the Arbitration Act.
“These rules exist for good reasons. Respect for Congress as drafter counsels against too easily finding irreconcilable conflicts in its work. More than that, respect for the separation of powers counsels restraint. Allowing judges to pick and choose between statutes risks transforming them from expounders of what the law is into policymakers choosing what the law should be,” the majority opinion reads. “Our rules aiming for harmony over conflict in statutory interpretation grow from an appreciation that it’s the job of Congress by legislation, not this Court by supposition, both to write the laws and to repeal them.”
Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored a dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Ginsburg read her dissent, SCOTUSBlog reported.
“The law could hardly be otherwise: Employees’ rights to band together to meet their employers’ superior strength would be worth precious little if employers could condition employment on workers signing away those rights,” Ginsburg wrote.