Access to Justice

RELEASE: Court Grapples Once Again with Federal Arbitration Act’s Exemption for Transportation Workers

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries Park St., LLC, a case in which the Court is considering whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) exempts workers who are actively engaged in interstate transportation but are not employed by a company in the transportation “industry,” Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Miriam Becker-Cohen issued the following reaction:

For the second time in two years, the Supreme Court finds itself tasked with settling a dispute about the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act’s exemption for transportation workers, which exempts from the Act’s coverage “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” This time the issue before the Court is whether the exemption extends to transportation workers who are not employed in the transportation “industry,” like the truck drivers who work for a commercial bakery in this case.

If the Court follows the text and history of the FAA, this case should be an easy one. As we explained in our amicus brief filed in support of the truck drivers, there is no hidden “industry” requirement in the text of the FAA exemption. And if the Court follows the ejusdem generis canon that was discussed at oral argument this morning—searching for a commonality between “seamen” and “railroad employees” to understand who qualifies as a transportation worker—it will see that the term “seamen” in 1925 covered individuals employed by lumber companies, coal companies, and other companies outside the transportation industry, as counsel for the truck drivers repeatedly emphasized today.

The FAA exemption’s plain text mandates that all transportation workers, regardless of who employs them, should get their day in court when they allege that their rights have been violated by their employer. We urge the Supreme Court to follow that plain text.



Case page in Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries Park St., LLC:


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