Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. September 2018, Volume 32, No. 5

Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis: Employees’ Perspective

By Logan Starr

Logan Starr is an associate attorney at Bryan Schwartz Law in Oakland, where he represents employees in wage-and-hour class and collective actions, as well as in employment discrimination and whistleblower matters.

Introduction

The seemingly banal holding of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, that "arbitration agreements . . . must be enforced as written," conceals the true potential impact of the Court’s decision, and that of the decades-long project of the Federalist Society and its loyal jurists to expand the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). With Epic, the Roberts Court has largely accomplished its objective: many employers can insulate themselves from significant liability for wage violations, employment discrimination, and other vital worker protections by forcing employees into arbitration agreements that forfeit the right to bring class and collective actions.1 Given the low value of most individual employment claims, mandatory individual arbitration may effectively exonerate some corporations from liability for widespread workplace violations.2 As stated by Justice Ginsburg in dissent, "the inevitable result" of Epic will be "the underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers."3

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