Bakery Drivers Head to High Court Searching for Arbitration Exit

Workers have spent years arguing the Federal Arbitration Act’s transportation worker exemption means their wage-based claims against companies such as Amazon.com Inc.Domino’s Pizza, and Uber Technologies Inc. belong in open court, not behind closed doors.

A federal appellate court added a new obstacle in 2022 when it ruled that when it comes to the exemption, which company someone works for matters as much as what type of work they perform.

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether that FAA exemption is indeed limited to those whose employers are actually in the transportation industry. And no matter how the court rules in the fight between Flowers Foods Inc. and drivers who distribute its baked goods, lengthy court battles over the issue are only likely to increase, lawyers on both sides say.

Requiring a transportation-industry employer “will lead to years of litigation focusing on the proper characterization of economic activity for a business, not on what workers do,” said Barry Winograd, who filed an amicus brief in support of the workers on behalf of the National Academy of Arbitrators.

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