In 1925, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act, which (among other things) provides that an agreement to arbitrate a dispute “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable.” Ten years later, Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act, which makes clear that employees have the right to work together for “mutual aid and protection.” Today the Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of 5-4, that employers can include a clause in their employment contracts that requires employees to arbitrate their disputes individually, and to waive the right to resolve those disputes through joint legal proceedings instead. Although it likely won’t garner the attention that some of this term’s other cases will receive, the decision was a huge victory for employers, because it could significantly reduce the number of claims against them
In an opinion by the court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, the majority emphasized that the Federal Arbitration Act “instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms—including terms providing for individualized proceedings.” Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act trumps that requirement, the majority explained, particularly when the provision of the NLRA on which the employees rely “does not express approval or disapproval of arbitration” and “does not mention class or collective action procedures.” Indeed, the majority stressed, the NLRA “does not even hint at a wish to displace the Arbitration Act—let alone accomplish that much clearly and manifestly, as our precedents demand.”
I thought this case was the best chance to stop the FAA’s march. Just goes to show what I know.