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Workplace Lawsuits After Epic Systems

The case of Epic Systems Corp v Lewis (2018) was decided at the Supreme Court level, with the holding effectively barring workers with similar grievances from classing together during arbitration. This has made the environment much more difficult for workers who do experience unfair treatment on the job, and it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with changes in the law that could potentially affect you.

The Decision

The Epic Systems case came about after a group of employees at the Wisconsin-based firm filed a lawsuit over the company’s overtime policy. They were barred, however, from seeking further relief due to having signed individual arbitration agreements. The District Court disagreed, arguing that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects engaging in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining” and the employees’ lawsuit was protected by this language. The Circuit court agreed, and Epic then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court consolidated three cases in Epic Systems, and ultimately ruled that the provisions in the NLRA only apply to collective bargaining through unions, not in collective arbitration. The court thus sided with Epic Systems against their employees, in a decision that multiple court-watchers called “a significant blow to the fundamental rights of workers”—in the words of the Economic Policy Institute.

What Does This Mean?

With the Epic Systems ruling, several potential changes loom on the U.S. employment landscape. Perhaps most importantly, workers who have arbitration agreements with their employer will be restricted to individual proceedings only. This means that those employees are essentially at their employers’ mercy during the process, given that an employer will almost always have the monetary advantage if they decide to stall or otherwise challenge the proceedings.

Workers should also keep in mind that wage-and-hour and overtime cases are not the only ones being affected by the Epic Systems ruling. Cases involving sexual harassment claims, as well as alleged issues of worker misclassification, were cited in a National Law Journal study of cases post-Epic Systems. Out of the cases analyzed, almost two-thirds (63 percent) broke in favor of the defendant. Essentially, if you have an arbitration clause in your employment agreement, it may be more difficult to prevail if you ever file a complaint or a grievance against your employer.

Contact An Experienced Attorney

While it is not impossible to prevail in arbitration with your employer, it may be more difficult than it was before the Epic Systems ruling. Having a knowledgeable employment discrimination lawyer on your side can help. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been following twists and turns in employment law for many years and is happy to work toward a solution for you. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.

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