It is not uncommon for employers to have their employees sign a contract before beginning work. These days, this contract usually contains an arbitration clause, which requires the employer and the employee to enter into arbitration, should a dispute arise. In fact, about half of all non-unionized workers at US companies are subject to these agreements. Since 2000, the number of companies using arbitration clauses has doubled. Now, however, some employers are adding a new arbitration provision to employment agreements, which prevent employees from bringing or participating in class action lawsuits.
The legality of class action waivers has been challenged in recent years. The National Labor Relations Board and some appellate courts have stated that including class action waivers goes against the National Labor Relations Act. Other appellate courts have disagreed, stating that the Federal Arbitration Act permits these types of waivers.
Just how divisive are class action waivers in the courts? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second, Fifth and Eight Circuits ruled that class action waivers were permissible in employment arbitration provisions. However, the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth circuits disagreed and ruled that class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements violated the rights of employees.
On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the issue and held that class action waivers in employment agreements were permissible and enforceable. This decision, Epic Systems v. Lewis, 137 S.Ct.809(2017), resolved the federal appellate court decision, however, there are more cases heading to the Supreme Court with a focus on whether class arbitration is required when only general language is used.
When you sign your employment contract in South Florida, it may now contain arbitration provisions that waive your right to filing a lawsuit. This means employees who are sexually harassed, racially discriminated against, or who are the victims of wage theft may not be eligible to file a lawsuit or band together in a class action lawsuit against their employer. For example, arbitration clauses have significantly hampered the #MeToo movement, as women who are coming forward to press charges against their abuser find themselves shut out of the courts because they signed an arbitration agreement.
Studies have shown that arbitration favors employers. After all, private arbitration allows companies to hide their misconduct from the scrutiny of the public eye. These clauses protect the employer and allow them to enter into private arbitration with limited accountability and zero government oversight.
Workers are less likely to win arbitration cases against their employer and when they do, they will likely receive less money than they would’ve in court.
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, harassment, wage theft, or retaliation, it is important to know your legal rights. Even if you signed an employment agreement, it is important to speak to an experienced Miami employment lawyer immediately. Call the Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. today at 888-315-8771 to learn more about your legal rights in the workplace. Our attorneys are skilled employment attorneys who are dedicated to protecting worker rights. Call us today.
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