One of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions has been getting plenty of coverage in the past week for how it impacts workers in America. While the case focuses on the parts of an employment contract that require a worker to go through arbitration, the practical repercussions of the case will also impact workers’ compensation, as well.
Supreme Court Weighs in on Arbitration Agreements in Employment Contracts
The case, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, said that employers could put provisions into employment contracts that required workers to take all of their disputes to arbitration, rather than court. The provisions could also prohibit the worker from filing or even joining a class action lawsuit. And the employer could fire or refuse to hire a worker who refused to sign the contract.
Why Individual and Compelled Arbitration Hurts Workers
Forcing workers out of court and into arbitration for any claim they have against their employer is a problem because it can allow employers to choose arbitrators who will take their side. According to a study in the Economic Policy Institute, workers are less likely to win in arbitration than in courts. When they do win, the damages they receive are often far less than they deserve.
Compelling individual arbitration is even worse. It prevents workers from banding together to have their cases—often nearly identical—heard all at once. This saves everyone time and money. However, employers are willing to waste both if it means they get the outcome they want.
How this Decision Can Impact Workers’ Compensation
Simply put, the Supreme Court’s decision allows companies to force individual arbitration for any claim that a worker brings. This includes a claim that the company or employer is not performing their obligations under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law. It would also include a claim about how badly you were hurt in a workplace accident, or even if you were hurt, at all.
Claims like these are fact-intensive and require the expertise of courts to effectively and accurately determine. On an even more basic level, though, these claims require a fact-finder who is neutral, detached, and not biased. While some arbitrators are all of these things, many others are not. Worse, business, companies, and other employers have a serious financial incentive to get their arbitration cases in front of the arbitrators who will rule in their favor.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The realities of this Supreme Court case are only just beginning to unfold. Already, hundreds of workers who had workplace-related claims pending have seen their lawsuits put on hold until they go through arbitration. Thousands more will face an even steeper climb if they want to vindicate their rights on the job.
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph know and understand the implications of this new Supreme Court decision. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for the legal help you need if you have been hurt on the job.