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Supreme Court frees truck drivers from arbitration requirements

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that spells a big win for truck drivers. In a unanimous opinion, the Court found that employers cannot force contract truck drivers (often called owner-operators) into arbitration in the event of a work-related dispute.

The case

The case in question involved owner-operator Dominic Oliveira and the trucking company New Prime Inc. Oliveira filed a class-action lawsuit against New Prime for misclassifying owner-operators as contractors, rather than employees, and for failing to pay them minimum wage.

New Prime alleged that Oliveira was not allowed to file such a lawsuit, because his worker contract stipulated that all employment disputes must be resolved through arbitration.

While the Federal Arbitration Act may allow employers in many areas to require their workers to settle disputes through arbitration, the Supreme Court found that there exists a clear exception in the law for transportation “workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”

Why it matters

Work-related disputes that are settled through arbitration often disproportionately benefit the employer. When a worker has the chance to take their case to court, it can create significant advantages for them. There are several reasons for this:

  • A jury is often more sympathetic than an arbitrator to an employee.
  • Having a jury means that the resolution to a legal issue hinges on more than one person’s opinion.
  • When a case goes to court, the defendant is allowed to make details of the case public.
  • Unlike with arbitration, the defendant retains the right to appeal the court decision.

The ruling in this case creates stronger legal footing for truck drivers who encounter employment law issues.

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