LOS ANGELES — Having their day in court just became much harder to get for millions of American workers.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on ideological lines — 5 conservatives and 4 liberals — that employers can force employees to resolve disputes outside the court system, blocking potential class-action lawsuits.
The case challenged provisions in employee contracts called arbitration agreements, in which employees agree that if there is a dispute between them and an employer they will resolve it without filing a lawsuit.
Though the outcome does not affect people represented by labor unions, an estimated 25 million employees already work under contracts that prohibit collective action by employees who want to raise claims about some aspect of their employment.
Labor Attorney Abigail Zelenski, of the Filipino American Bar Association and Juarigue Law Group, says that in her study and practice, arbitration favors businesses, not the workers.
“ Arbitrations are overwhelmingly in favor of employers. Arbitrations are private..they’re confidential,” said Zelenski. “Arbitrators don’t have to follow precedent. And there is no right to appeal a bad decision in arbitration.”
Zelenski adds the many Filipino Americans will be affected by the ruling, especially the most vulnerable.
“I think it affects most the low wage workers. It makes sense to band together with your fellow employees, or have a whole class because it makes sense for an attorney to be able to bring it and make it worthwhile and also puts pressure on the employer to rectify and fix a wrong.”
But conservative supporters say that the ruling was a logical reading of federal law– and Congress’s preference for using arbitration to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.
(GFX: AQUI SORIANO PIC
“Tthe Supreme Court decision is bad news for all workers in America, including Filipino American workers because it makes it harder for workers to hold businesses accountable for labor violations,” sais Aqui Soriano, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Los Angeles.
PWC, a labor organization, has filled numerous class action suits on behalf of wage workers.
It says the Supreme Court decision is bad news for all workers in America, including Filipino American workers because it makes it harder for workers to hold businesses accountable for labor violations.
Experts workers may still be able file disputes —or even lawsuits, but on an individual level.
Attorney Zalenski also adds the employees may still band together, hire legal counsel, and file mass arbitrations against their employers.
While the decision was largely supported by the business community, some Democrats in Congress said the ruling is now a call for action.