Stephan Zouras, LLC Wins Major U.S. Supreme Court Victory For Workers Over Forced Arbitration

In a big win for employees nationwide, the Supreme Court voted unanimously this week in favor of our plaintiff against Southwest Airlines. The ruling allows some workers to have their case heard before the Court and not with an arbitrator – regardless of a signed arbitration agreement.

In Saxon v. Southwest Airlines, Stephan Zouras, LLC is asserting claims on behalf of a collective group of transportation workers who load and unload cargo for the airline. In an opinion issued by Justice Thomas, the Court ruled that this class of workers is exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 because they belong to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” This means these Southwest employees (and other improperly paid transportation workers) can collectively sue for wage theft and back pay.

For years, Stephan Zouras, LLC has fought against corporations and forced arbitration mainly because it strips employees and consumers of their Constitutional right to a jury trial. In arbitration, big business is much more likely to win because arbitration is private – no judge, no jury and limited oversight.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that more than 60 million American workers are now subject to mandatory arbitration agreements. In 1992, only 2% of American workers were subject to forced arbitration. This exponential increase directly impacts workers in Illinois, with millions of Illinoisans – 60% of those employed by large private sector employers — now subject to forced arbitration.

How do arbitration agreements hurt workers?

Arbitration agreements are imposed, often against those with the least bargaining power (minorities, women, hourly-paid, low wage earning blue collar workers) as a mandatory condition of employment. In other words, the employee is forced, in exchange for employment or continued employment, to surrender their Constitutional right to access the court system. The employer, on the other hand, always retains its right to go to court against the employee.

Arbitration agreements are never individually negotiated; they are form agreements often hidden in “the fine print.” Usually, the employee does not even realize they have given up their Constitutional rights until the employer engages in illegal conduct against the employee and they consult with a lawyer. This includes claims for sexual harassment, discrimination based on race, sex or religion, claims for unpaid minimum or overtime wages, and more.

Employers have every reason to force employees into arbitration. At arbitration, employees do not have the same rights and protections as in court. There is no judge, no jury, no appeal, and only limited discovery and procedural rights. The entire proceeding takes place in secret behind closed doors with no public scrutiny or accountability. That helps ensure that the employer’s illegal practices and serious misconduct remain a secret, removing any incentive for it to change.

Even worse, arbitration proceedings are overseen by an arbitrator who is not elected, is not appointed by an elected official, is not required to follow legal precedent, may have limited or no experience, and may be biased, prejudiced or have interests which are in conflict with the employee.

Studies have shown that employees are far less likely to win at arbitration and even when they do win, the damages they are awarded are significantly less than in court. One study found that at arbitration, workers win just 21.4% of the time and the award amount was three times smaller than cases decided at trial.

This ruling is a huge victory for workers engaging in interstate commerce, preserving their Constitutional rights and access to the courts, and preventing corporations from avoiding accountability for engaging in misconduct against employees.

Forced or mandatory arbitration is unjust. We will continue to advocate for employees and those affected by deceptive business practices. The lawyers at Stephan Zouras, LLC have achieved countless victories in court and recovered over $250 million for victims of illegal wage practices and other corporate abuse.


What Our Clients Are Saying

The law firm, Stephan Zouras, handled a matter for me that was very problematic - I cannot be too specific because of the nondisclosure agreement, but suffice it to say that they came through for me FAR beyond my expectations - TWICE, in TWO separate cases. I will DEFINITELY use them in the future if I ever have any similar cases against unfair employers. Anyone that thinks attorneys are not accessible needs to hire this firm. Every staff member (Kerry, Ryan, many others) was polite, and professional, understanding, kind, and sympathetic. Thanks again, to all of you on my settlement!

- Don D.

Jim Zouras is a dedicated and caring professional who fights for the rights of ordinary people. Throughout what could have been a difficult process, I always felt Jim “had my back” and was looking out for my best interests.

- Stephanie L.

I worked with Andy Ficzko, an associate of Stephan Zouras. I cannot thank the team, especially Andy, enough for helping me to settle a dispute that I had for a few years. I didn't know where to go and am so thankful that I was directed to use this group. Andy worked hard and was persistent in getting a settlement for me. He always kept me in the loop, did what was in my best interest and never gave up. After years in this dispute, it only took a few short months for Andy to help me walk away with a win. He worked hard to help me and I am so appreciative to him! This is the best group around! Thank you and here's to continued success!!

- Jennifer S.

I was a part of a class action suit which Teresa Becvar handled. Numerous times I had questions and Teresa always returned my phone calls or emails quickly. She was courteous and knowledgeable and encouraging. I am feeling so blessed with the outcome of our lawsuit and I appreciate everything STEPHAN ZOURAS LLP, ATTORNEYS AT LAW DID FOR ME.

- Erika

I would highly recommend that you use this firm. Anna at Stephan Zouras, LLC is an incredibly compassionate person, one who's committed to resolving your case. I couldn't be happier with the results pertaining to my case. And most importantly, they are extremely knowledgeable and informative to clients. Thank you Anna and all the staff at Stephan Zouras. My extended family SALUTE!

- Mr. JB

I couldn't have been happier with Ryan Stephan. I handle securities administrative work and it's difficult to find someone to help when I need advice and legal assistance. Ryan is not only knowledgeable but communicative and responsive. I'm grateful to have him in my corner and highly recommend him and his firm.

- Mary

Stephan Zouras law firm is one of the best. My personal experience with Teresa and the firm was phenomenal. Teresa always kept me informed and genuinely showed she cared. I would recommend this firm and Teresa to anyone looking for honest people that will fight for you and go the extra mile.

- LaChelle

I worked with Jim Zouras and it was a pleasure. He told us what to expect and what NOT to expect, and that is exactly how things happened. He talked to me like I had a brain but was not a lawyer and I appreciated that. Hope I never need him again but would hire him again in a second.

- April W.

Ryan represented me and my co-workers as part of a large class-action lawsuit against our former employer for multiple violations of labor law. I did not choose him myself, but am so glad somebody found him because he is one of the best attorneys I've ever met. He is dedicated and driven by a sense of moral justice which is increasingly uncommon in any industry today. When working with me, he was incredibly professional combining a sense of empowerment and ferocity in his approach. He is sensitive to his clients' needs and is able to craft a deadly offense while maintaining only the position that his client(s) desire. He ensures that his clients get a stellar advocate in court who will serve as their voice. He won our case resulting in recompense for hard-working people who were unfairly denied pay for work they performed for their company across the course of several years. If you are looking for an OUTSTANDING attorney, Ryan Stephan is your guy.

- Erica

I was always kept in the loop with my suit, and their persistence has paid off in the long run. I would recommend this firm to anyone looking to do a class action lawsuit. Ryan and the staff at Stephan Zouras are the best!

- Liz F.

If you need a hard-working, detailed, compassionate and cooperative class action attorney, this is your guy [Andy Ficzko]! He keeps in constant contact so you are always in the loop. No question goes unanswered and he makes you feel valued. Unlike some lawyers, he is not pretentious, but very professional and thorough. He handled my case seamlessly and it only required one visit to his office. From beginning to end, my case was completed in about 11 months. I am very happy with the outcome of my case!

- Cheryl

Ryan worked me while I was part of class action against a former employer who was in violation of various labor laws. He was very pleasant to work with. My overall experience with the firm was very positive and I highly recommend him and his team.

- Hassan

Jim Zouras and the legal team at Stephan Zouras did a thorough and outstanding job recovering overtime wages against a former employer. The case was handled as a class action, and Jim and his staff were complete professionals in promptly responding to calls, emails, answering questions, and keeping all of us informed throughout the process. They are dedicated to their work and exceeded our expectations. I would gladly recommend their services to anyone having issues with their employer.

- Kristin

A great firm to deal with - very personable. Kept up to date on the case and always gave me options. Ryan, his staff and the receptionist were all very nice and helpful at all times. Very satisfied with the results of the case. If you ever need an attorney he will be there for you and walk you through it.

- Brent

I worked with Jim Zouras as well as Teresa Becvar in a class action and won with a settlement that benefited a large group of fellow former employees. Communication was always very good and they were always helpful in answering any questions as well as preparing me for what was coming and what to expect.

- Ryan

This review is long overdue but my sentiments are still as overwhelmingly positive and strong for the firm-especially Ryan, Haley and Emily many months later. From day one Ryan made me feel like my case was his most important case, that I was not who was wrong, and that more than anything they were on my side. Their firm and the way they listen and make you feel is why I imagine one would go into practicing law. During my deposition the court reporter even commented how nice Ryan was- there is no need to be a jerk to get what you want. I'm not saying I would do this again but if Ryan and Haley were on my team I would not hesitate. In the end it was not like TV but Ryan is a true Hollywood hero in my world! And Haley a virtual rising star. I am forever grateful for them and helping me close an ugly chapter in my life.

- Roxann P.

Let me say I've sought out the assistance of this firm on three different occasions and I was never let down. This last time around it was a bit more involved with frequent visits and conference calls. When I tell you that they are great people to work with you can bet on it. Andy, Ryan and Anna were always on top of the matter along with updates all the time. They are awesome at what they do and I would STRONGLY RECOMMEND this firm to address your needs. Thanks again team for believing in me and seeing me through it all.

- Jeff

Teresa is a patient and very efficient lawyer. She has excellent communication, is detail oriented, calm and supportive. She helped me with a legal matter and was outstanding. I would recommend her to anyone in her area of specialty.

- Unpaid Wages Client
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