Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Never Saw Gorsuch A Mess

And we have our first major Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Merrick Garland Neil Gorsuch and it's a doozy, one that essentially ends employee class-action suits and as Think Progress's Ian Millhiser explains, basically legalizes employer wage theft.

The Supreme Court held on Monday that employers can force their employees to sign away many of their rights to sue their employers. As a practical matter, Monday’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis will enable employers to engage in small-scale wage theft with impunity, so long as they spread the impact of this theft among many employees. 
Neil Gorsuch, who occupies the seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year until Donald Trump could fill it, wrote the Court’s 5-4 decision. The Court split along party lines. 
Epic Systems involves three consolidated cases, each involving employment contracts cutting off employees’ rights to sue their employer in a court of law. In at least one of these cases, the employees were required to sign away these rights as a condition of starting their job. In another, existing workers were told to sign away their rights if they wanted to keep working. 
Each contract contained two provisions, a “forced arbitration” provision, which requires legal disputes between the employer and the employee to be resolved by a private arbitrator and not by a real court; and a provision prohibiting employees from bringing class actions against the employer. 
Writing with his trademarked smugness, Gorsuch presents Epic Systems as a simple application of a legal text. “The parties before us contracted for arbitration,” he writes. “They proceeded to specify the rules that would govern their arbitrations, indicating their intention to use individualized rather than class or collective action procedures. And this much the Arbitration Act seems to protect pretty absolutely.”

And of course, the real losers here are women and workers of color suffering from corporate wage theft.

Epic Systems means that employers who cheat a single employee out of a great deal of money will probably be held accountable for their actions — though it is worth noting that arbitrators are more likely to favor employers than courts of law, and that they typically award less money to employees when those employees do prevail. The biggest losers under Epic Systems, however, will be the victims of widespread, but small-scale, wage theft. 
The lesson for employers, in other words, is to go ahead and cheat your workers. Just make sure you spread the theft widely among as many employees as possible, and that you don’t take too much from any one person.

Your employer is now free to force you to sign away your rights to class-action lawsuits -- and a host of other protections -- as a direct result of this decision.  You'd better believe your boss is coming up with a way to do just that, if they haven't already.

But her emails, they told us.

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