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Employment Arbitration Agreements

Positive labor conditions form one of the cornerstones of modern democracies. Moreover, this principle was the focus of the global liberation struggle, as non-compliance with the workers’ rights evokes strong associations with servitude. The detrimental impact of corporate pressure and exploitation of human resources is also often discussed on all levels. Nevertheless, current tendencies in the United States have pushed workers toward a position in which they have to seek individual arbitration agreements instead of joining class-action suits. This situation received the attention of the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled a highly controversial verdict. The purpose of this paper is to review the decision of the Supreme Court concerning employment arbitration agreements.

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While the disputes within the employment law framework have existed for a long time, the issue has received additional attention in recent years. In 2015, Epic Systems Corporation became the target of a lawsuit filed by its former employees in the form of both an individual appeal and a class action. The company had allegedly denied its workers due to overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 2018). The motion was denied by the local court, and the decision was later confirmed by the United States Court of Appeals. The savings clause of the Federal Arbitration Act enforces arbitration agreements unless there are “legal or equitable grounds that would render a contract unenforceable” (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 2018, para. 1). In the end, considering a lack of agreement, the litigation continued in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The hearing of the case reflects its controversial nature, as the ruling was difficult for the judges. From one perspective, it is advisable to resolve most of the potential disputes directly between the company and its employees through individual agreements. Moreover, the National Labor Reactions Act (NLRA) protects the right of workers to self-organize and partake in labor organizations and associations of their choosing, as well as concerted activities (Gelernter, 2019). However, the Supreme Court has ruled that class actions suits do not fall in the category of concerted activities, thus losing legal protection. From the legislative perspective, the phrasing of the NLRA, indeed, makes the ruling justified. Nevertheless, from a moral point of view, such a decision risks leaving employees alone against large corporations with immense abilities to apply pressure.

Overall, the opinions of the judges of the United States Supreme Court varied, which resulted in a close vote. The ruling was five-to-four in favor of Epic Systems, creating a nationwide precedent and obliging workers to seek individual arbitration agreements. While the verdict may appear justified from a legal perspective, its moral grounds remain questionable. If the tenth vote were possible, it should have gone in favor of the workers’ class action. Modern democratic principles should ensure the well-being of all citizens, and eradicating all hints of corporate exploitation and pressure is an important part of this process.


Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. (2018). Oyez. Web.

Gelernter, L. (2019). The impact of Epic Systems in the labor and employment context. Journal of Dispute Resolution, 115. Web.

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