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Dozens of plaintiffs heading to arbitration with Epic

Dozens of individuals around the country are entering arbitration with the Verona-based medical-software company Epic Systems over unpaid overtime claims.

Jacob Lewis and 29 other employees had originally taken Epic to federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin over the claims, attempting to band together in a class-action lawsuit. However, Epic contended that because the employees had signed a class-action waiver as condition of being employed there, the claims had to be resolved individually through arbitration.

Lewis contended, among other things, that the waivers were unenforceable because they violated the National Labor Relations Act. They said the waivers improperly prohibited employees from engaging in “concerted activities” in the form of collective bargaining or other types mutual aid or protection.

Federal District Judge Barbara Crabb and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with that argument. But Epic appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which took the case last year and combined it with two other cases. In May, the justices sided with Epic in May a 5-4 decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Lewis’ lawyers have asked the Seventh Circuit to remand the case to Crabb to determine whether class-action waivers are unenforceable under standard principles used to construe contractual language.

In the meantime, the plaintiffs are heading into arbitration. Their lawyers at Hawks Quindel and Habush, Habush & Rottier recently started arbitration processes in forums throughout the country, according to a news release on Thursday.

As part of the agreements that Lewis and the plaintiffs signed, Epic will pay for each of the arbitration proceedings, as well as part of the plaintiffs’ filing fees, said Madison attorney Breanne Snapp in a statement Thursday. Snapp is one of the planitffs’ lawyers and an attorney at Habush, Habush & Rottier.

“Although we are not pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, we have every intention of making these claims heard,” said Snapp. “Epic will not be able to evade overtime laws by prohibiting employees from bringing their claims together to a court of law. Instead of the cases being resolved efficiently in one class action trial, we now may have a thousand arbitrations instead.”

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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