Employers seem poised to overturn an Obama-era rule prohibiting individual arbitration in employment contracts after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a trio of cases over whether New Deal-era labor laws protect the rights of employees to join in class actions.
Arguments in Epic Systems v. Lewis and two other cases involving Ernst & Young and Murphy Oil quickly revealed a strong divide between the court’s liberal and conservative justices, with the conservatives appearing to favor the employer’s position. Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy asked probing questions of lawyers for the National Labor Relations Board and employees suggesting he didn’t buy their arguments, while newly seated conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch said nothing, perhaps indicating his mind was already made up.
The cases reflected the unusual administrative politics of the Trump era. Arguing for the NLRB, an independent agency that until recently was under the control of Obama-era appointees, was Richard Griffin, the former counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers whose term ends next month. He was opposed by Richard D. Wall, principal deputy solicitor general for the U.S., who argued in favor of the employers and against the NLRB.
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