By Joe Fournier
The legal atmosphere right now is decidedly pro-employer and anti-employee. There have recently been two major Supreme Court decisions in the land of labor and employment law.
The first, Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, held that the federal National Labor Relations Act does not prohibit employers and employees from agreeing to class action waivers in employment contracts. If you have ever signed a boilerplate employment contract, you probably waived your right to litigate any issue that might come up during your employment in a class action, and agreed to individual arbitration. Why is this important? There is strength in numbers. The class action allows litigation where each class member’s damages are too small to be worth it – that is, the cost of litigation is more than the damages. And, from an employee’s viewpoint, a judge and/or jury is going to yield a better outcome than an arbitration.
The second case, Janus v. AFSCME, held that unions cannot compel public sector employees who are not union members to pay union dues, even if they benefit from the union’s collective bargaining efforts. Such so-called “fair share” agreements violate the First Amendment protections of free association and freedom of speech. This is important for obvious reasons. Unions are going to have much less money to work with, and fewer members – and it will be harder for them to marshal that strength in numbers mentioned above.
It is decisions like this that make protecting an employee’s rights that much more difficult, and also that much more fundamental and necessary. It is worth remembering that your employer is not your friend – even if your employer is, actually, a friend. The employer is running a business, and is not looking out for your rights. If they can pay a woman less than a man for doing the same exact job, they’ll do it. If they can “lay off” older employees and replace them with younger ones who are paid less, they’ll do it. If they can look at an employee’s disability and insist that accommodating that disability will be prohibitively expensive, they’ll avoid the accommodation.
If you have questions about whether you have been wrongfully terminated, or for assistance with any other legal needs related to your business or estate planning, contact Fournier Legal Services for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.670.3535.