This is not my cup of tea but it is important.
This is the basic background:
In April 2014, Epic Systems Corporation sent an email to a group of its employees. The email contained a modified arbitration agreement. The agreement mandated that all wage-and-hour claims made by the email’s recipients could be brought against Epic only through individual arbitration. The agreement also required that the employee waive their right to any other means of resolving such a disagreement. The email said that continuing employment at Epic constituted agreement to the new conditions.
Not long afterward, one of the group filed a lawsuit alleging he and others had been deprived of overtime pay. Epic asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit as the plaintiff, Jacob Lewis, had agreed to waive legal action when he acknowledged receipt of the company’s email. The trial judge refused to dismiss the case and allowed it to proceed to trial. Epic appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit agreed with the trial judge. The Seventh held that the National Labor Relations Act held precedence over the Federal Arbitration Act, a law allowing employers to impose arbitration. Epic appealed to the Supreme Court.
Today, Neil Gorsuch, in a 5-4 decision, agreed with Epic (decision).
Gorsuch and the majority didn’t take a position on what policy was best but rather what the law required:
Gorsuch writes that the “policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written. While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the” National Labor Relations Act, “much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act.”
While the people crapping their drawers over this have a point:
There are huge implications to this SCOTUS ruling upholding forced arbitration in the workplace. More workers will have to sign away their right to join a class action, just to get a job. Suing over wage theft and discrimination will become more difficult. https://t.co/0zUhvUxhXc
— Dave Jamieson, LLC (@jamieson) May 21, 2018
The second worst thing about SCOTUS legalizing low-level wage theft is that now I have to slog through a Gorsuch opinion. By which I mean that Gorsuch is a pedantic writer who over-explains things in a way that uses too many words and also ridiculous metaphors. #Gorsuchstyle
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) May 21, 2018
(This is because Millhiser is a savant which is why he works as a “justice editor” at ThinkProgress.)
The larger point is that it isn’t the job of the Supreme Court to decide what is the best policy. That job belongs to Congress. This is very much in line with the immigration case decided last week which found Congress had passed a law that was impermissibly vague. And it shows a mature recognition that the courts do grave damage to their own credibility when they wade into policy battles to try to remedy a mess made by Congress.