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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jacob Lewis v Epic Systems Corporation: Appellate Court Decision

This just in:
Lewis, J v. Epic Systems Corporation, 7th Circuit Decision

 Epic's no-collective-arbitration agreement is illegal.
Epic Systems, a health care software company, required certain groups of employees to agree to bring any wage-and-hour claims against the company only through individual arbitration. The agreement did not permit collective arbitration or collective action in any other forum. We conclude that this agreement violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 151, et seq., and is also un-enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq. We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of Epic’s motion to compel arbitration. (emphasis mine)

What this means: Epic cannot stop its employees from availing themselves of the protections afforded by the National Labor Relations Act, including but (I assume) not limited to:

Section 7 of the NLRA provides that “[e]mployees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activ-ities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

Congratulations to Mr Lewis and his expert legal team.

9 comments:

  1. An Epic loss (in all sense) for Epic's effort, through its compulsory pre-dispute arbitration agreement, to deprive its workers of their Federally protected statutory right to concerted action. It is gratifying to see that the 7th Circuit three-judge appellate panel unanimously handed Judy Faulkner and Epic their heads through this tightly reasoned opinion, written by Judge Diane Woods (often mentioned as a prospective Supreme Court nominee). That outcome is well deserved, given Epic's arrogance in foisting the objectionable and now unenforceable provisions of its arbitration agreement on existing employees. With this decision, Judy and Epic join a rogues gallery of firms that have improperly tred to deprive their workers of their rights.

    The decision was covered a few hours ago in a NY Times article, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27/business/dealbook/court-rules-companies-cannot-impose-illegal-arbitration-clauses.html?_r=0 .

    Epic's first likely move will be to ask the 7th Circuit court to hre-hear the case en banc. If the court declines to do so, or upholds its panel, then Epic could appeal to the Supreme Court. The Times article notes that since circuit courts have split with respect the issue presented in this case, it is more likely that the Supreme Court will grant certiorari. But with Justice Scalia's death, I would guess -- pure speculation -- that a split on the Court is more likely, which would uphold the 7th Circuit's decision.

    Congratulations to Jacob Lewis and Epic's technical workers! Your concerns are a major step closer to being vindicated.

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    1. It's happened: Epic has filed a Writ of Certioriari, seeking acceptance of its appeal to the Supreme Court. The Magic 8 Ball says "outlook good" that the Supremes will accept. Read all about it here: http://blogs.reuters.com/alison-frankel/2016/09/06/new-cert-petition-asks-scotus-to-review-employer-bans-on-class-actions/ .

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  2. Just wondering how many people have submitted complaints about Epic through the Wisconsin Department of Labor. I exported my TLG on the day that I left, mainly to tally up project management hours in the event that I get a PMP. This was useful, however, when I filed my complaint with the DoL. The process took about 15 minutes. I filled out a form, tallied up my hours. attached the TLG export and a copy of my last paystub (to show my hourly rate, etc.), and sent it in the mail. After the DoL investigates, if they agree with me, I am owed roughly $20,500 in unpaid overtime wages. And this was after only one year. I'm sure that others are owed much more than me. In Wisconsin, overtime pay (anything more than 40 hours per week) is 1.5 times your hourly wage. Many people are confused in thinking that having a salary means you are exempt from overtime wages. This is simply not true. Epic is actually classifying many employees as exempt from overtime pay when, according to the standards set forth by the Department of Labor, they are truly non-exempt.

    From speaking with the WI DoL for my Unemployment Insurance claim, they were none too pleased with Epic. Like many others, I was asked to choose a date by which I would leave, and not technically fired. The agent evaluating my claim said that I was ABSOLUTELY eligible for unemployment benefits, and exasperatedly stated that Epic does this "all the time." I hope that everyone who even thinks they might be eligible would file a claim. The DoL, *not* Epic, ultimately decides who is eligible.

    You have 2 years from when the work was performed to submit a claim. With a TLG export, it is very straightforward. Legally, you can request this information from Epic as well. They may take a long time to give it to you or refuse to give it to you, but there is also a section in the complaint about this issue!

    These recent lawsuits will hopefully help employees/former employees feel empowered to ask for reasonable and legal expectations and compensation for work. I can let you know the outcome of my complaint when it is resolved, if you wish.

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    1. A reader asked (via a username that was not anonymous, so I am hesitant to publish it) what your results were from the claim.

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  3. As someone who has not worked at Epic, but has been in the industry for a long time (and a recovering union member), it is interesting how the strong-arm employment practices at the "Happiest Healthcare Software Company on Earth" haven't resulted in the ultimate irony: organization.

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  4. As a current Epic employee, if anyone is interested in unionizing, reach out to me at UnionizeEpic@gmail.com .

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  5. New QA class action overtime compensation suit filed against Epic: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime-and-courts/epic-systems-sued-again-for-overtime-wage-issues/article_8d8bb549-c641-5ed3-9383-90e8988c3ee2.html .

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    1. Does anyone have any further info on this? Or know how to view the case details?

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