Susan Fowler Files Amicus Brief in Murphy Oil

Published August 28th, 2017 -  - 08.28.1712


This post is part of OnLabor’s continuing analysis of National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA.

Susan Fowler, whose blog post publicized the sexist workplace culture at Uber, filed an amicus brief in support of employees in the consolidated cases of Murphy Oil USAEpic Systems and Ernst and Young before the Supreme Court.  The full brief is available here.

The brief uses Uber to illustrate why companies might opt to include class action waivers in arbitration agreements.  Fowler argues that companies do not need “class action waivers to resolve disputes ‘cheaply or quickly.’”  Instead, employers “require class actions waivers to limit or eliminate the legal risk associated with systemic—and potentially or certainly illegal—employment practices.”

Fowler contends that “[t]he right to litigate collectively is particularly important in the 21st century in that such litigation is the most readily available means for modern day workers to act in concert to improve their working conditions.”  She maintains that “[m]uch of the modern workforce cannot reasonably engage in the ‘traditional’ concerted activity of striking or picketing.”

She then describes the important role of class actions in allowing workers to address workplace violations.  The brief continues:

Collective litigation — when meritorious — usually results in settlement negotiations (or bargaining), a ‘collective’ settlement agreement, an improvement in working conditions, and a reduction of industrial strife.  Without the right to collective litigation, there will be more systemic employment law violations, less effective ways to remedy them, and the balance between companies (i.e., capital) and talent (i.e., labor) will shift firmly in favor of capital.

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