Class actions allow individuals to seek redress in situations where it would be illogical or overly burdensome for them to pursue their case individually. For example, when individual damages incurred pale in comparison to the expenses of attorneys' fees and other costs associated with pursuing a case a class action may be the only way these cases see a court room. Some criticize class actions as being "anti-business" because they can result in massive settlements due to the aggregation of damages across the class.
Employers have sought protection from class actions by requiring employees sign class action waivers as a condition of their employment. These waivers remove the ability of employees to bring class action against their employers, requiring instead that they proceed individually in arbitration. Similarly, businesses have included class action waivers in user agreements and customer contracts. The issue has been contested in many courts, with rulings both for and against such waivers.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review three cases that deal with the issue of class action waivers. The cases will be heard in October of 2017, allowing enough time for Neil Gorsuch's ("Gorsuch") appointment to be confirmed by the Senate. While Gorsuch has not had a significant amount of involvement with cases that deal with this issue, he generally has been on the side of employers and businesses. The precedent that the U.S. Supreme Court sets with its ruling in these cases will likely mold the future of labor and employment law and has huge implications for the viability of class actions in these areas.
The legal team at SFMS has substantial experience litigating employment matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chiharu Sekino (email@example.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.
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Roberts, Jeff John. "What Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch Will Mean for U.S. Business," Fortune. Last modified on February 1, 2017.
Campbell, Braden. "High Court Pushes Class Waiver Battle To Next Term," Law360. Last modified on February 8, 2017