The case involves Epic Systems, one of the largest medical software companies in America. Founded in the late 1970s, the billion-dollar business only recently began making workers agree to so-called “forced arbitration” clauses in which they forswear their rights to go to court either individually or collectively.
The decision breaks a pattern of appeals courts repeatedly validating such forced arbitration clauses, bringing America closer to a reckoning over a deep and pervasive imbalance of power. Corporations of all kinds could soon lose their ability to tie the little guy’s hands and effectively guarantee they’ll never face serious legal challenges to potentially abusive business practices. In addition to Thursday’s rejection of arbitration clauses in the workplace, federal regulators are also working to annihilate them from all consumer finance products — the other major area of the law where they hold sway.
But the past couple years have been tough for Epic. It missed out on a multi-billion-dollar contract to build health records for the Pentagon and had another large deal with Veterans Affairs suspended recently.
And in late 2013, a group of workers sued the company demanding back pay and arguing they were eligible for overtime. At that point, Epic didn’t require workers to waive their courtroom rights.
Workers cannot be prohibited from bringing class-action lawsuits against their employers, an appeals court panel ruled Thursday, even if the boss makes them sign away that right in order to keep their job.