Epic asks SCOTUS to weigh in on employee arbitration ban

Epic Systems has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision ruling the health IT company could not mandate arbitration as a means to settle employee disputes nor have employees waive their right to act collectively, reports Reuters.

Epic's lawyers filed the writ of certiorari Friday in response to a May decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the company in violation of the National Labor Relations Act for requiring arbitration. According to court documents, Epic sent an email to employees in April 2014 containing an arbitration agreement that said claims regarding wages and working hours could only be raised through individual arbitration, and employees waived the right to participate in any class, collective or representative proceeding. Epic reportedly did not offer employees an option to decline the arbitration, according to the court's decision.

The appeals court said Epic's arbitration agreement violates the NLRA, which protects the general welfare of workers, who have a right to act collectively. What's more, the court said the Federal Arbitration Act, the federal policy of enforcing arbitration agreements, does not trump worker's rights to act collectively.

However, in its decision, the 7th Circuit Court said its reasoning does conflict with rulings from three other federal circuits that concluded the Federal Arbitration Act does permit employers to prohibit employees' collective action, reports Reuters.

Epic's petition calls out the inconsistency between appellate courts and says the split between the circuits is problematic for employers and employees alike, according to Reuters.

"So long as this split persists, large employers will need to have one set of employment policies for employees in the 7th and 9th Circuits, and another set of policies for employees elsewhere," Epic said, according to the report.

The plaintiff in the case reportedly plans to oppose Epic's petition. "The split may be not as deep as it appears at first blush," Caitlin Madden, who represented the plaintiff at the appellate level, told Reuters. "We are confident in the 7th Circuit decision." 

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