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Ex-Uber Employee Files Amicus Brief to SCOTUS Over Collective Arbitration

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 29, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Susan Fowler, the ex-Uber engineer whose viral blog post about the hostile working environment she endured while working for the booming ride-hailing app, has filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court.

In addition to detailing her harrowing experience, her brief argues in support of invalidating forced employee/contractor arbitration clauses, which is at issue in a set of three cases which the High Court has consolidated. Specifically at issue in the cases before SCOTUS is whether bans on class actions and collective actions through arbitration agreements violates federal law.

Fowler's brief explains that the right to band together for collective or class litigation is potentially the best thing employees can do. Requiring individual arbitration rather than class or collective actions essentially renders some claims, particularly the low value claims, entirely worthless. Fowler signed a similar waiver, which the brief notes is "now ubiquitous at gig-economy companies."

Fowler's brief further explains that companies are abusing the foundational principles of mitigating risk through arbitration. Rather than actually requiring arbitration to minimize costs, companies are using arbitration as way to completely eliminate liability for certain types of legal wrongs.

One of the cases SCOTUS will be taking up this fall, illustrates just how contentious this issue can be. In the introduction to NLRB v. Murphy Oil, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal wrote, in denying the NLRB's motion:

The Board, also aware, moved for en banc review in order to allow arguments that the prior decision should be overturned. Having failed in that motion and having the case instead heard by a three-judge panel, the Board will not be surprised that we adhere, as we must, to our prior ruling.

However, while the Sixth has upheld the collective and class waivers, there is a circuit split on the issue, which was what likely prompted SCOTUS accepting review.

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