Jeffrey Ruzal Quoted in “Epic at 3: Impact of High Court’s Arbitration OK Still Unsettled”

Law360 Employment Authority

Jeffrey H. Ruzal, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “Epic at 3: Impact of High Court's Arbitration OK Still Unsettled,” by Mike LaSusa. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Epic Systems v. Lewis is this month, and employment law experts say new legal tactics and legislative proposals are still shaping the legacy of the justices' decision to bless class action waivers.

The high court's 5-4 ruling, handed down in May 2018, came in a trio of Fair Labor Standards Act cases that involved unpaid wage claims against Murphy Oil USA Inc., Epic Systems Corp. and EY.

The majority of the justices held that employers can require workers, as a condition of their employment, to sign agreements giving up their right to pursue class actions. The decision rejected the National Labor Relations Board's position that class waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act's provisions protecting collective action by workers. …

But since the decision came down, some state and federal lawmakers have backed measures to curb the use of class action waivers. And some worker advocates have leaned into the ruling by filing huge numbers of individual arbitration claims against employers accused of employment law violations involving whole groups of workers. …

'Be Careful What You Wish For'

The use of mass individual arbitrations has upended employers' initially favorable view of the Epic ruling, said Jeff Ruzal, a partner at employer-side firm Epstein Becker Green. Although arbitration is typically seen as more favorable to employers, it doesn't always work out that way in practice.

"Be careful what you wish for, because you could wind up with hundreds, if not thousands, of individual demands for arbitration," Ruzal said. "The result of an individual arbitration may not be in an employer's best interest."

Courts tend to side largely with one side or the other, whereas arbitrators often try to "split the baby," Ruzal said.

"The plaintiff side is obviously looking for whatever value of their claims they can achieve, and defendants are not necessarily looking to just mitigate exposure, but to completely avoid it if the law is on their side," he said. "A more even-handed approach that doesn't necessarily deal either side an absolute decision … could be off-putting."