Arbitration of Employment Disputes – Textualism as Applied to “Contracts of Employment”

Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

Introduction -

On January 15, 2019, Justice Gorsuch, the self-described textualist on the U.S. Supreme Court, authored the opinion of the Court in the matter of New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, interpreting the term “contracts of employment,” as used in the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA” or the “Act”), as including relationships between businesses and independent contractors. Justice Gorsuch, writing for a unanimous Court, held that plaintiff Dominic Oliveira, a trucker driving for defendant New Prime, had the right to litigate his wage and hour claims in court, rather than have them decided by an arbitrator.

The Facts, the FAA, and Agreements to Arbitrate -

New Prime operates trucks in interstate commerce. Oliveira drove for New Prime under agreements that characterized him – rightly or wrongly – as an independent contractor. The agreements between New Prime and Oliveira provided that any disputes arising out of the parties’ relationship would be resolved by an arbitrator. The agreements explicitly included within the scope of issues to be determined by the arbitrator disputes over arbitrability of the claims asserted.

Originally published in the Federal Bar Association Massachusetts Chapter Newsletter - Winter 2019.

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