UNITED STATES – On January 15, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in the New Prime v. Oliveira case. And, the impact of this Supreme Court decision could affect the trucking industry across the nation. The results of the decision? That owner-operators can’t be forced into mandatory arbitration.
John B. Lewis, a partner with BakerHostetler, talked about the impact this could have on the trucking industry. He said that the industry “frequently uses independent contractors to accomplish its objectives and arbitration to efficiently resolve individual disputes.” Because of this, many believe that other lawsuits against owner-operator fleets could arise due to the ruling.
This particular case came up back in 2015. Basically, it focused on employee Dominic Oliveira. He brought a class-action lawsuit to his employer, a refrigerated truckload carrier called Prime Inc., located in Springfield, Missouri. Essentially, Oliveira claimed that Prime misclassified him and other drivers as contractors.
Meanwhile, Prime claimed that the contract Oliveira had with them mandated that individual arbitration resolve disputes. Prime also claimed that this was the law under the Federal Arbitration Act. In the end, the Supreme Court agreed with a former ruling. This ruling stated that the term “workers” also included the independent contractor.
Does this make things better or worse for employees in the trucking industry?
A Vice President with the Teamsters union, Fred Potter, also chimed in on the decision. Basically, he said that the decision was a victory for workers throughout the transportation industry. This includes “employees, legitimate independent contractors, and drivers misclassified as independent contractors who are suffering egregious wage theft.”
As a result of the decision, Potter believes the court emphasized “that employers cannot and should not require drivers to waive their right to their day in court through binding arbitration agreements.”
While this is good in some instances, it doesn’t make everything simple for trucking employees across the nation. In fact, the Supreme Court ruling disappointed American Trucking Associations. As a result, they believe it “will make it harder for motor carriers and independent owner-operators alike to rely on agreements to resolve their disputes through arbitration.”
So, it is clear that things are changing this year. And now, only time will tell whether or not the Supreme Court decision leads to better or worse conditions for truckers in the industry.