Score one for employers. 

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday moved to continue to allow companies to require employees to settle disputes through individual arbitration. This effectively prevents employees from banding together and engaging in a class-action lawsuit against an employer. By some estimates, the decision could affect about 25 million workers and could make it harder for employees to press complaints like sexual harassment and discrimination.

While the court's conservative majority argued that using arbitration avoided time-consuming and expensive litigation, left-leaning advocates told The Washington Post it could be harmful for workers.

"Employees may now be forced behind closed doors into an individual, costly--and often secret--arbitration process," Fatima Goss Graves, president and chief executive of the National Women's Law Center, told the Post. "This will stack the deck in favor of the employer."

However, Gregory F. Jacob, a lawyer with O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., told The New York Times that the ruling would have a limited impact since many employers already use arbitration clauses. "It does protect employers' settled expectations and avoids placing our nation's job providers under the threat of additional burdensome litigation drain," Jacob told the Times.

The decision is considered the most important business case of the term and is largely supported by the business community. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the conservative majority and was joined by chief justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In her dissenting opinion, justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the ruling "egregiously wrong ... The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts--including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one," Ginsburg writes. "Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees."

Published on: May 22, 2018