SCOTUS Blow to Workers’ Rights Demands Legislative Fix
SAN FRANCISCO, CO – In a 5-4 decision issued yesterday written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court ruled in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis that employers can use mandatory arbitration agreements to bar workers from banding together to challenge workplace violations.
Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, released the following statement:
For over four decades, Equal Rights Advocates has represented the most vulnerable of women workers. Make no mistake: the Epic Systems decision is a direct attack on their rights. As the #MeToo movement has made clear, women must often work collectively to force change in their workplace. Many cannot afford to pursue their claims individually and risk retaliation when they do so. And because individual arbitration proceedings are not public, they prevent the exposure of widespread abuses and protect repeat predators in the workplace.
By upholding forced arbitration agreements that bar class or collective actions, the Supreme Court has made it harder for workers to challenge and change discriminatory work conditions. The decision flies in the face of the National Labor Relations Act and its interpretation by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRA entitles employees to “engage in concerted activities for the purpose of mutual aid or protection.” We wholeheartedly stand with Justice Ginsburg, who said in her dissent: “The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it-contracts – including provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees.”
The Court’s decision in Epic Systems panders to corporate interests at the expense of workers. It will, no doubt, lead to the dramatic under-enforcement of civil rights laws designed to protect workers’ rights. Our eyes now turn to Congress. We call upon elected leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the workers who put them in office. We demand a legislative fix clarifying the right of workers to take collective legal action.
Equal Rights Advocates is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls.