Hogan Lovells Scores Major Win for employers in U.S. Supreme Court case Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis

Washington, D.C., 21 May 2018 – Hogan Lovells, in conjunction with several other law firms, secured a major Supreme Court victory today in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, a landmark case preserving the right of employers to enter into individualized arbitration agreements with their employees. Ruling in favor of Hogan Lovells’ clients, the Court decisively rejected the assertion that class action waivers are forbidden by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The victory was particularly important because the National Labor Relations Board had taken the opposite position, holding that class action waivers in individual employment contracts unlawfully impede an employee’s right to engage in “concerted activities” under Section 7 of the NLRA. The Supreme Court rejected that view. In a 5-4 decision, Justice Gorsuch disagreed with the Board’s interpretation of Section 7, and reiterated that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) contains an “emphatic” command to honor arbitration agreements. The Court explained that nothing in the NLRA permits courts to ignore that clear command with respect to class action waivers.

The Court’s full opinion can be found here. By upholding the validity of class waivers, the opinion provides employers with a powerful, judicially protected means of avoiding costly and burdensome class proceedings. More broadly, the Court’s decision is an important reminder to the lower courts that arbitration agreements must be vindicated; the opinion therefore permits employers to enter into arbitration agreements with renewed confidence that those agreements will be honored by the judiciary.

Partner and Appellate practice co-head Neal Katyal has been involved in this case since the certiorari stage, when he and his appellate team were brought in by Epic Systems to seek certiorari review of an unfavorable Seventh Circuit ruling. Later, two other petitions were filed, and the respondents in one (Murphy Oil) also hired Hogan Lovells.

Katyal was joined on the merits briefing on behalf of Epic Systems and Murphy Oil by Senior Associates Colleen Sinzdak and Thomas Schmidt.

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