Monday, August 21 – To protect the rights of workers, Justice in Aging teamed up last week with leading civil rights law firms, The Impact Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) and Cohen Milstein, to file an amicus brief on behalf of more than thirty civil rights organizations from across the country in a trio of cases pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The cases address the question of whether employment agreements that prevent workers from taking “concerted” action to challenge workplace violations conflict with protections in federal labor law. Such agreements undermine the fight for civil rights.
“People have power when they come together in a class action lawsuit. Through collective action, older adults can address systemic discrimination and uproot the unlawful practices that can be embedded in public institutions and that also contribute to high rates of senior poverty,” said Regan Bailey, Litigation Director at Justice in Aging.
“What’s at stake is the right of workers to bond together to hold employers accountable for systemic discrimination,” said Impact Fund executive director, Jocelyn Larkin, adding: “There has been a disturbing trend in recent years for employers to evade their responsibilities by requiring those that work for them to waive their legal right to join together with co-workers to challenge discrimination.”
“Workers have to be able to come together to bring disparate impact and pattern or practice claims,” said Raymond Audain, Senior Counsel at LDF and counsel of record on the brief, adding: “In most individual cases, employees are denied access to the information necessary to show widespread discrimination.”
“Had the arbitration clauses at issue before the Supreme Court been in effect before, more than 120 important civil rights cases, listed in this brief, would have never been brought,” said Joseph Sellers, chair of the civil rights and employment practice group at Cohen Milstein. Joining the brief are more than thirty non-profits from around the country who use litigation to fight discrimination against racial minorities, women, seniors, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ communities.
The Supreme Court will review the 9th Circuit’s decision involving Ernst & Young and the 7th Circuit’s ruling involving Epic Systems Corp. It will also consider the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit’s judgment enforcing Murphy Oil USA Inc.’s waiver, which was challenged by the National Labor Relations Board.
The cases are Epic Systems v. Lewis, 16-285; Ernst & Young v. Morris, 16-300; and NLRB v. Murphy Oil, 16-307.
“If employers can preclude workers from acting together in every forum, they can—and will—effectively extinguish the civil rights claims of the most vulnerable members of the workforce,” concluded Larkin.
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Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For more information, visit our website at www.justiceinaging.org.
The Impact Fund was founded in December 1992, to help advance economic, environmental, racial and/or social justice through the courts. Originally envisioned as a purely grant making organization, the Impact Fund has made more than 600 grants totaling just over $6M. Click for Grant Criteria and information about Grant Deadlines. Since its inception, the Impact Fund has grown to include both advocacy and education in its range of services. Today, the Impact Fund litigates a small number of cases directly, authors amicus briefs, provides a substantial amount of pro-bono consulting and presents an annual conference for plaintiff-side class action practitioners, a training institute for emerging public interest law practitioners, and numerous seminars and webinars. In short, the Impact Fund is a national clearinghouse for public interest impact litigation. Read the 2016 Annual Report.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.
For over 45 years, Cohen Milstein has fought corporate abuse, pursuing litigation on behalf of affected individuals, whistleblowers, public entities and other institutions in cases that have raised challenging, significant and often novel issues. The firm specializes in holding large corporations accountable for their actions even though they often have significantly more resources than those damaged by their misconduct. Often, this is accomplished by bringing large numbers of plaintiffs together in a single class to enhance their ability to litigate effectively. One of the premier firms in the country handling major complex plaintiff-side litigation, Cohen Milstein has over 90 attorneys in offices in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Raleigh, NC; and Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
Contact: Vanessa Barrington