Last week I read that Sirhan Sirhan had been denied parole again. No surprise there. But what captured my attention was his attorney’s comment that there was not “one iota” of evidence he would be a threat to society if released.
Not even one iota? Why are there never any iotas? And what is the plural of iota anyway? And how do you even respond to that? Well, actually, we had a few iotas. Let me check my notes here. Yes, three iotas.
“Iota” means an infinitesimal amount. Synonyms include bupkus and diddly-squat. But if you search for “iota” online, no one ever has any iotas. The word is always used in the negative.
Well here are a few iotas for you. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases that will affect when arbitration agreements with independent contractors can be enforced. The Supreme Court generally gets involved when there are at least a few iotas of good arguments on both sides.
Both cases address the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which creates a presumption that arbitration agreements should be enforced, but includes a few iotas of carveouts.
In the first case, Viking River Cruises v. Moriana, the Supreme Court will determine whether cases brought under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) are subject to arbitration. California courts have said they are not.
In the second case, Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon, the Court will address the scope of the Section 1 exemption, which makes the FAA inapplicable to certain types of transportation workers in interstate commerce. The Saxon decision is likely to clear up the mass confusion (and circuit split) over whether last mile delivery drivers and local rideshare fall within the exemption.
In the political arena, arbitration agreements have come under fire, and there is a movement among Democrats to abolish mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, appears more likely to enforce the contracts as written, deferring to the contractual intent of the parties and interpreting any exemptions to the FAA narrowly.
There is more than one iota of evidence to support both sides of these disputes. But expect some 6-3s.
If I am pulling out my crystal ball, I expect the Supreme Court will uphold the arbitration agreements, at least in Saxon. Moriana is tougher to predict since PAGA is a state law creation in which the individual bringing the claim acts as a private attorney general, bringing the claim on behalf of the state. On one hand, the state never agreed to arbitrate. But on the other hand, the individual bringing the PAGA claim did agree to arbitrate any disputes, not to bring them in court under the guise of PAGA.
Whenever the Court rules, we’ll see arbitration agreements back in the news. More visibility on this issue will mean louder and more urgent calls from politicians to abolish pre-dispute arbitration agreements.
We can expect many iotas of news on arbitration agreements later in 2022.
© 2022 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.