In a decision split 5-4 along partisan lines, the conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court sided with employers. Neil Gorsuch wrote the detailed 25-page prevailing opinion. The law is clear, SCOTUS writes, that when an employee signs a work contract they should understand what it says, because what it says, is what it means.
The law spelled out in the Federal Arbitration Act requires courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate because the Court “presumes that the parties selected the terms of their agreement.” Unlike what liberals were fighting for, both sides are expected to keep their word. As the old saying goes, “you’ve made your bed, you have to lie in it.”
“As a matter of policy these questions are surely debatable,” Gorsuch penned. “But as a matter of law, the answer is clear. In the Federal Arbitration Act, Congress has instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms — including terms providing for individualized proceedings.”
The wonderful thing about freedom and liberty is the “opportunity to make bad decisions and learn from them.” Naturally, nanny state liberals who can’t wipe their noses without government assistance are livid.
“Employees may now be forced behind closed doors into an individual, costly and often secret arbitration process,” Fatima Goss Graves whines. The president and chief executive of the National Women’s Law Center is convinced, “this will stack the deck in favor of the employer.”
As usual, liberals don’t have a leg to stand on. If people want collective bargaining all they need to do is join a union. The time for collective bargaining is before there is a claim to dispute.
If they don’t want to join a union but don’t like an employer’s contract clause that limits disputes to one-by-one arbitration settlements, they don’t have to sign it. They can work somewhere more liberal.
Congress can change it if they want to. It is their job. The conservative-leaning justices on the Supreme Court are firmly (and rightly) convinced that their job is to explain the law, not write or repeal it.
“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,” Justice Gorsuch explains, backed up by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito.
Three similar cases consolidated under Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis worked their way gradually up the appeal ladder, picking up conflicting rulings.
The Justices agreed to decide the issue of whether “employment agreements requiring individual arbitration are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act” once and for all.
There are two main points to the dispute. An alternative to the full courtroom circus for resolving disputes, called Arbitration, is one.
The process allows the parties to solve problems in a much less formal setting, for a lot less expense than going to court. You can still be represented by an attorney and bring all the evidence you want.
The part that has the left-leaning minority justices hopping mad is the provision requiring claims to be presented one at a time, instead of allowing employees to gang up.
“Individual means in this context that more than one person who has the same claim against the same employer cannot band together to minimize the costs of litigation.”
Legal analysts note that the decision seemed to be clear from the moment testimony ended but releasing the final written decision took eight months.
The majority opinion weighs in with twenty-five pages of explicit step by step explanations of legal reasoning, then the minority opinion written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg is five pages longer.
Those extra five pages are devoted exclusively to mostly unsupported arguments favoring Ginsburg’s position. Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan signed off on her rebuttal.
“Today’s ruling will lead to the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers,” she read from her part of the decision, “because it will rarely be worthwhile for individual employees to pursue their own claims.
Even if they might otherwise be willing to do so, they will also likely fear retaliation if they go it alone.”
In the long run, Ginsburg fears, employers will “no doubt perceive that the cost-benefit balance of underpaying workers tips heavily in favor of skirting legal obligations.”
The majority on the highest court was not convinced. It isn’t fair, they reasoned, for an employee to accept the agreement and bind the employer to it, then disregard it when it suits them.
That would “allow the judicial branch to step in just because an employee got himself into a bad deal.”
Contract law simply does not work that way. “The Arbitration Act requires courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate, including the terms of arbitration the parties select. These emphatic directions would seem to resolve any argument here,” Gorsuch notes in the opinion.
The FAA law itself was written, Gorsuch emphasizes, “in response to a perception that courts were unduly hostile to arbitration.
In doing so, it not only instructed courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate but it also specifically directed them to respect and enforce the parties’ chosen arbitration procedures.”
He used the current case as an example. “as here, an agreement to use individualized rather than class or collective action procedures.”