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Archive for the ‘Textualism’ Category

International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) Interviews Professor Angela Downes, Richard D. Faulkner, and Philip J. Loree Jr. about the United States Supreme Court Certiorari Grant in FAA Section 1 Dispute: Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries Park St., LLC  

November 21st, 2023 Applicability of Federal Arbitration Act, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Law, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Exemption from FAA, FAA Chapter 1, FAA Section 1, Federal Arbitration Act Section 1, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), Loree and Faulkner Interviews, Professor Downes, Richard D. Faulkner, Russ Bleemer, Section 1, Textualism, The Arbitration Law Forum, The Loree Law Firm, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Supreme Court No Comments »

BissonnetteOn September 29, 2023, the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) granted certiorari in Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries Park St., LLC, No. 23-51 (U.S.), a case that concerns the scope of Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). Section 1 exempts from the FAA “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U.S.C. § 1.

A key question presented by the text of Section 1 is whether the contract is a “contract[] of employment” of a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”  SCOTUS has decided three cases that have addressed that issue—or aspects of it—in one context or another.

In 2001, in Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105 (2001), the Court decided that Section 1’s exemption applied not to all employment contracts, but only to contracts involving “transportation workers.”

In 2019, in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, 139 S. Ct. 532 (2019) (discussed here and here) the Court held that the term “contracts of employment” means “agreements to perform work,” irrespective of whether those agreements establish an employer-employee relationship or merely an “independent contractor” relationship.

Finally, on June 6, 2022, in Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon, 142 S. Ct. 1783 (2022) (discussed here) the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) held that certain ramp supervisors, who worked for Southwest Airlines, whose work frequently included assisting with the loading or unloading of baggage and other cargo on or off airplanes, were members of a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” for purposes of Section 1. (Southwest Airlines is discussed here.)

The question SCOTUS has taken up in Bissonnette is whether Section 1 includes an additional requirement—one not apparent from either the text of the FAA or any of the above three decisions – that the person performing the work be a member of the “transportation industry.”  The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined that the answer was yes, and SCOTUS granted certiorari.

The reason that the question whether participation in the “transportation industry” is claimed to be relevant to the Section 1 FAA exemption is because the Bissonnette plaintiffs were commercial truck drivers who worked not for companies in the transportation industry but for ones in the baking industry—Flowers Food, Inc. and its two subsidiaries (the “Flowers Companies”). One or more of the Flowers Companies owns and sells “Wonder Bread.”

Each plaintiff had to form a corporation and enter in the name of that entity into a distribution agreement with one of the Flowers, Inc. subsidiaries. Those agreements provided the corporate entities with certain distribution rights in exchange for money. Each contained a mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration agreement.

The agreements required the plaintiffs to work forty hours per week minimum, driving vehicles to stores in their assigned territories within the State of Connecticut, transporting and delivering defendants’ baked goods (including Wonder Bread) and displaying them in the stores according to the defendants’ specifications.

The agreements subjected the plaintiffs to defendants’ policies and procedures, which regulated, among other things, the time, place, and manner of pickups, and required plaintiffs to report to the warehouse each day to upload data concerning their deliveries and pickups. Plaintiffs had to obtain and insure their own vehicles.

The district court held that the plaintiffs had to arbitrate their FLSA claims with the defendants, the Second Circuit affirmed for different reasons, and SCOTUS will decide the case this Term, which ends in June 2024.

We think it likely that SCOTUS will hold that Section 1’s FAA exemption for transportation workers is not conditioned on the workers being in the “transportation industry.” Provided a worker is within a class of transportation workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce, then it should qualify for the Section 1 exemption from the FAA.

Aside from the lack of an FAA textual hook for such an argument (and other reasons outside the scope of this post), just last Term SCOTUS in Saxon, construing the text of Section 1, provided a straightforward test to determine who is exempted from the FAA. The Saxon Court provided an easy test to determine who falls within the scope of FAA Section 1’s exemption. The Court held that “any class of workers directly involved in transporting goods across state or international borders falls within § 1’s exemption.”  Saxon, 142 S. Ct at 1789.  Accordingly, as long as a worker is within a class of transportation workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce, it will qualify for the Section 1 exemption.

The workers in Bissonnette are transportation workers because a large part of their work involves driving commercial trucks distributing Flowers’ goods to Flowers retailers in interstate commerce. Just as the Ramp Supervisors in Southwest Airlines were classified as “transportation workers” because they frequently loaded cargo on and off airplanes, so too, will SCOTUS probably rule that the plaintiffs in Bissonnette are “transportation workers” because they frequently drive trucks transporting goods in interstate commerce.

On October 24, 2023, our friend and colleague Russ Bleemer, Editor of Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation, Newsletter of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) (“CPR Alternatives”), interviewed our friends and colleagues, University of Professor Angela Downes, University of North Texas-Dallas College of Law Professor of Practice and Assistant Director of Experiential Education; arbitrator, mediator, arbitration-law attorney, and former judge,  Richard D. Faulkner; and yours truly, Loree Law Firm principal, Philip J. Loree Jr., about the Bissonnette certiorari grant, its implications and how SCOTUS might decide the case. You can watch the video-conference interview HERE.

Johnathan Baccay, a CPR Intern, and a second-year law school student, on September 29, 2023 wrote for CPR Speaks (CPR’s blog) an excellent article about Bissonnette, which CPR Speaks published.

Contacting the Author

If you have any questions about this article, arbitration, arbitration-law, arbitration-related litigation, then please contact Phil Loree Jr., at (516) 941-6094 or

Philip J. Loree Jr. is a partner and founding member of the Loree Law Firm. He has more than 30 years of experience handling matters arising under the Federal Arbitration Act and in representing a wide variety of clients in arbitration, litigation, and arbitration-related litigation.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISING NOTICE: Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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The photo featured in this post was licensed from Yay Images and is subject to copyright protection under applicable law.



2021 Term SCOTUS Arbitration Cases: Is the Pro-Arbitration Tide Beginning to Ebb?

July 18th, 2022 Amount in Controversy, Applicability of Federal Arbitration Act, Application to Appoint Arbitrator, Application to Compel Arbitration, Application to Stay Litigation, Arbitrability, Arbitral Subpoenas, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Law, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Challenging Arbitration Agreements, Challenging Arbitration Awards, Equal Footing Principle, FAA Chapter 1, FAA Transportation Worker Exemption, Federal Arbitration Act Section 1, Federal Arbitration Act Section 10, Federal Arbitration Act Section 11, Federal Arbitration Act Section 2, Federal Arbitration Act Section 4, Federal Arbitration Act Section 5, Federal Arbitration Act Section 7, Federal Arbitration Act Section 9, Federal Courts, Federal Policy in Favor of Arbitration, Federal Question, Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction, International Arbitration, International Judicial Assistance, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, Look Through, Modify or Correct Award, Moses Cone Principle, Petition or Application to Confirm Award, Petition to Compel Arbitration, Petition to Modify Award, Petition to Vacate Award, Policy, Post-Award Federal Arbitration Act Litigation, Practice and Procedure, Presumption of Arbitrability, Richard D. Faulkner, Section 10, Section 11, Section 1782, Section 3 Stay of Litigation, Section 5, Section 6, Section 7, Section 9, Small Business B-2-B Arbitration, State Arbitration Law, Statutory Interpretation and Construction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Substantive Arbitrability, Textualism, United States Supreme Court, Vacatur, Waiver of Arbitration Comments Off on 2021 Term SCOTUS Arbitration Cases: Is the Pro-Arbitration Tide Beginning to Ebb?

Introduction: This Term’s SCOTUS Arbitration Cases 

SCOTUS FAA CasesThe 2021 Term was a busy and controversial one for the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) regarding abortion, First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights, and administrative agency power.  However, many may not know SCOTUS decided four Federal Arbitration Act cases during the 2021 Term (the “FAA Cases”), as well as a pair of cases consolidated into one concerning whether U.S. Courts may provide under 28 U.S.C. § 1782 judicial assistance to international arbitration panels sited abroad. See Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, 596 U. S. ____, No. 20–1573, slip op. (June 15, 2022) (construing FAA); ZF Automotive US, Inc., et al. v. Luxshare, Ltd., 596 U.S. ___, No. 21–401, slip op. (June 13, 2022) (construing 28 U.S.C. § 1782); Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon, 596 U.S. ___, No. 21-309, slip op. (June 6, 2022) (construing FAA); Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., 596 U.S. ___, No. 21-328, slip op. (May 23, 2022) (construing FAA); Badgerow v. Walters, 596 U.S. ___, No. 20-1143, slip op. (March 31, 2022) (construing FAA).  

Three of the SCOTUS FAA Cases, Badgerow, Morgan, and Southwest Airlines signal SCOTUS’s apparent intention to construe strictly the Federal Arbitration Act’s text without indulging in any pro-arbitration presumptions or applying arbitration-specific rules intentionally encouraging arbitration-friendly outcomes. ZF Automotive, the 28 U.S.C. § 1782 judicial-assistance case also  employed a strict, textualist approach to interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1782, used the FAA to help support its conclusion, and held that 28 U.S.C. § 1782 did not authorize U.S. district courts to provide judicial assistance to private arbitration panels sited abroad—an outcome not particularly solicitous of international arbitration. It is therefore at least indirectly supportive of the more textually oriented and arbitration-neutral approach SCOTUS appears to have endorsed with special force during the 2021 Term.  

The SCOTUS 2021 Term FAA Cases are not the first ones in which the Court applied textualist interpretations to the FAA. There are others. See, e.g., New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 532 (2019) (discussed here and here). But common themes in three of those FAA Cases—echoed in ZF Automotive —suggest a marked trend by the Court to interpret the FAA in a less expansive manner that is not presumptively arbitration friendly. The expression of these common themes in four cases decided in a single term is particularly significant because Morgan, Southwest Airlines, and ZF Automotive were decided unanimously by all participating Justices and Badgerow was decided 8-1, with now retired Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer dissenting.  

Many previous FAA SCOTUS decisions of the last three or four decades have been very indulgent of arbitration. The Court encouraged arbitration proliferation far beyond B-2-B commercial and industry arbitration between sophisticated and resource-laden entities of roughly equal bargaining power.  Arbitration was introduced into consumer and employment disputes and other disputes involving persons (including businesses) of vastly disparate resources and sophistication. SCOTUS made arbitration agreements readily enforceable, interpreted them expansively in favor of arbitration, limited defenses to arbitration agreements and awards, and promoted arbitration to make it, at least in the eyes of some, an attractive alternative to litigation. Critics challenged that view and assailed arbitration as “do it yourself court reform.”  The SCOTUS arbitration decisions developed and implemented an expansive federal policy in favor of arbitration and a presumption of arbitrability and championed a very pro-arbitration approach to arbitration law in general.  

That SCOTUS, the lower federal courts, and eventually even the skeptical state courts that are bound by its FAA decisions, have been solicitous and supportive of arbitration is unsurprising. The assumed (but not necessarily realized) benefits of arbitration have long been touted by academics and promoted by business and industry representatives.  Of course, courts have for many years recognized that arbitration helps reduce docket congestion, which was exacerbated by COVID and remains a problem today, even with the help of proliferated arbitration proceedings. Arbitral dispute resolution is also a very impressive business sector in and of itself, generating billions in revenues for law firms, arbitrators, and arbitration providers. It therefore has many proponents.  

But Badgerow, Morgan, Southwest Airlines, and ZF Automotive suggest that SCOTUS is rethinking its prior expansive, and highly-arbitration-friendly approach to the FAA and might be more willing to entertain seriously arguments for interpreting: (a) arbitration agreements less expansively, and more like ordinary contracts; and (b) Sections 10 and 11 of the FAA strictly according to their text and not in an exceedingly narrow manner designed to encourage, arbitration-award-favoring outcomes. These cases may also embolden lower courts, especially the state courts, to do the same. Continue Reading »