via Huffington Post, May 21, 2018
On Monday, in an opinion written by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, the court ruled 5-4 that it is legal for employers to require workers to sign away their right to file class-action lawsuits against the employer ― and instead be forced to take their disputes to individual arbitration, a private court system in which companies typically have the upper hand.
For many women, the ruling means they will no longer be able to band together to fight systemic sexual discrimination or harassment in court. Women’s rights advocates were quick to decry the decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.
The Supreme Court ruling comes at a time when women are increasingly speaking up about discrimination and harassment ― and when more companies are being put on notice that such mistreatment will no longer be tolerated. The decision is also a painful reminder that Me Too is facing a major hurdle in the top federal court, thanks in no small part to President Donald Trump.
“The fact that Neil Gorsuch is the author of this opinion and he and the majority are exhibiting an incredible lack of understanding of what’s going on in today’s workplaces ― it brings it back to Trump,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project. “He nominated Gorsuch and brought him in. Trump’s not for the worker and he’s not a women’s rights president.”
Right now, about 60 million workers have already signed away their right to go to court by agreeing to arbitrate disputes with their employers, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis released last year. About 30 percent of those workers have also signed the kind of class-action waivers that were at issue in this decision.
Expect that number to rise, said Ruckelshaus. She told HuffPost that she recently sat on a panel with an in-house lawyer who said companies were watching this case and if it came down in their favor, more would require employees to sign these agreements.
Under massive public pressure, a few companies had recently said they would no longer require women who’d been harassed on their watch to go to arbitration. Most recently, Uber made such a pledge.
However, the ride-hailing company also said it would still force class actions into arbitration.