Law School Case Brief
Epic Sys. Corp. v. Lewis - 138 S. Ct. 1612 (2018)
Nothing in judicial precedent indicates that the National Labor Relations Act guarantees class and collective action procedures, let alone for claims arising under different statutes and despite the express (and entirely unmentioned) teachings of the Federal Arbitration Act.
In each of these cases, an employer and employee entered into a contract providing for individualized arbitration proceedings to resolve employment disputes between the parties. Each employee, however, sought to litigate their Fair Labor Standards Act and related state law claims through class or collective actions in federal court. Although the Federal Arbitration Act generally requires courts to enforce arbitration agreements as written, the employees argued that its “saving clause” removed this obligation if an arbitration agreement violates some other federal law. By requiring individualized proceedings, they argued that the agreements violated the National Labor Relations Act. The employers countered that the Arbitration Act protects agreements requiring arbitration from judicial interference and that neither the saving clause nor the NLRA demands a different conclusion. Until recently, courts as well as the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel agreed that such arbitration agreements are enforceable.
Must arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings be enforced?
The Court held that employees who entered into contracts with employers providing for individualized arbitration proceedings to resolve employment disputes between parties were not entitled to litigate Fair Labor Standards Act or related state-law claims through class or collective actions in federal court. It held that the arbitration agreements between employers and employees that called for individualized proceedings were to be enforced as written where 9 U.S.C.S. § 2 did not save the employees' defense that the contracts were unenforceable just because they required bilateral arbitration, and nothing in 29 U.S.C.S. § 157 expressed approval or disapproval of arbitration or mentioned class or collective action procedures.
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