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Supreme Court Deals a Major Blow to Workers’ Rights

Elizabeth "Booka" Smith

On June 20, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued its 5-3 decision in the case of American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant (Case No. 12-133).  The Court decided that corporations can force small businesses and individuals into arbitration even when it can be proven that they will not be able to vindicate their rights through arbitration.  The Court’s decision is a major blow to employees – from minimum wage workers to high level executives.  The American Association for Justice characterized the decision as giving corporations a “license” to “use the fine print in contracts” to “steal and violate the law” (see AAJ press release).

Justice Kagan, who dissented in the decision, blasted the majority’s interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), noting that “Congress never intended the FAA to be used against America’s workers or to invalidate their substantive legal rights.”  Worker advocate groups including the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) are calling upon Congress to enact the Arbitration Fairness Act (AFA) of 2013 (S. 878/H.R. 1844), which would curtail employers’ ability to force workers into arbitration. (Read NELA’s response to the Opinion.)

 

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