Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case involving the arbitrability of independent contractor agreements for transportation workers. In New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, No. 17-340, a federal district court denied trucking company New Prime’s motion to compel arbitration based on the terms of a signed independent contractor agreement and ordered additional discovery regarding truck driver Oliveira’s employment status. According to the district court, the question of whether the exemption related to “contracts of employment” included in Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applied to the case at hand was one for the courts to decide.
After that, the First Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed New Prime’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction and the company filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. A more detailed background of the case as well as a link to the First Circuit’s opinion is available in a prior Disputing blog post.
In February, the nation’s highest court agreed to consider New Prime. The questions presented in the case are:
1. Whether a dispute over applicability of the FAA’s Section 1 exemption is an arbitrability issue that must be resolved in arbitration pursuant to a valid delegation clause.
2. Whether the FAA’s Section 1 exemption, which applies on its face only to “contracts of employment,” is inapplicable to independent contractor agreements.
On October 3rd, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in New Prime. You may listen to the complete audio transcript on the court’s website.
Later this month, the Supreme Court will consider two additional arbitration-related cases: Lamps Plus, Inc., et al. v. Varela, No. 17-988 and Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc., No. 17-1272.
Lamps Plus addresses whether class arbitration is permitted in situations where an employer’s agreement to arbitrate is silent on the issue. You may read more information on that case in a May Disputing blog post.
In Henry Schein, the high court will consider an appeal out of the Fifth Circuit regarding:
Whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a court to decline to enforce an agreement delegating questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator if the court concludes the claim of arbitrability is “wholly groundless.”
You may check out a June Disputing blog post for a more detailed description of the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in both Lamps Plus and Henry Schein on October 29th, so please check back in the future for additional case developments!