As a truck driver or transportation employee under contract, it is important to understand how you can legally challenge or fight for your rights – especially when it comes to seeking fair pay. Keeping up with state and federal laws, as well as court decisions regarding your rights, can help you on your path to justice.
In two recent decisions, the New Jersey Supreme Court set the stage for how and where work-related disputes between employers and employees in the transportation sector will be resolved. The landmark decision essentially allows these employers to enforce arbitration on all its employees who have signed arbitration agreements, something that could not be done previously.
Permitting litigation or compelling arbitration?
In the past, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) contained the primary legal mechanism which permitted employees in the transportation field to take their disputes to court in New Jersey, even if they had signed arbitration agreements. This is because the FAA contains an exemption preventing employers from enforcing arbitration agreements signed by any transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce, thus allowing those employees to pursue their claims in court, instead.
However, in the two recent cases, the Supreme Court held that even if the parties to an arbitration agreement are exempt under the FAA, the arbitration agreements can still be enforced under the New Jersey Arbitration Act (NJAA), which contains no such exemption. Both cases dealt with transportation employees who were seeking compensation for receiving low pay and working long hours.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court followed the lower court decision to dismiss these cases, thus forcing the employees to proceed to arbitration. The court emphasized their employment contracts and the terms of the NJAA rather than honoring the FAA exemption. These decisions mean that New Jersey-based trucking and transportation companies may enforce arbitration agreements that their employees have signed.
Perhaps you are hoping to fight for wage fairness. Keep in mind that the NJAA covers all arbitration agreements signed from 2003 through today, and that these preceding cases may favor your employer over you. Therefore, it’s crucial to team up with an employment law attorney who understands the ins and outs of your rights as a contract transportation employee.