August 13, 2019 Feature

Supreme Court Surprise: Independent Truckers Escape Arbitration

By John Jay Range

In the last year, the Supreme Court has decided two important arbitration cases involving the employment agreements of tens of millions of American workers. Each case involved the same provision of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”),1 but the outcomes were surprising different. In one case, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis,2 the Court construed the FAA broadly, rejecting the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that it was an unfair labor practice for employers to require employees, as a condition of employment, to sign class action waivers in favor of individual arbitration of employment disputes. In the other case, New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira,3 the Court held that the provision of the FAA excluding “contracts of employment” of “transportation workers” from arbitration applied with equal force to employees of trucking companies and to independent drivers, thus exempting all truckers hauling goods in interstate commerce from employer-mandated arbitration. This article explores the differences between these cases, explaining which workers are required to comply with mandatory arbitration agreements and which workers are exempt.

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