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Supreme Court allows employers to prohibit class action suits in favor of arbitration

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled Monday in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis [opinion, PDF] that arbitration clauses in employment contracts prohibiting class action lawsuits are legally enforceable.

The plaintiff employees argued that the Federal Arbitration Act [text] contains a provision that arbitration clauses cannot be enforced it they violate some other federal law, and this particular arbitration clause violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, wrote, "A party seeking to suggest that two statutes cannot be harmonized, and that one displaces the other, bears the heavy burden of showing 'a clearly expressed congressional intention' that such a result should follow." According to the majority, there is a presumption that the statutes can coexist. Gorsuch wrote that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing a "clear and manifest congressional command to displace the Arbitration Act" in the text of the NLRA.

Four justices dissented. Reading [SCOTUSblog live blog] her dissent from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the majority opinion "egregiously wrong." Ginsburg wrote that the NLRA protects the rights of workers to collectively bargain, which includes bringing class action lawsuits.

Last month the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that auto service workers are exempt from overtime pay. In February the Supreme Court heard [JURIST report] an oral argument in a union case.

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