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New Prime, Inc. v. Oliveira

Dominic Oliveira, a truck driver for a company called New Prime, brought a class action against the company for misclassifying many of its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees and failing to pay minimum wages. New Prime sought to compel Oliveira to arbitrate his claim individually under an arbitration agreement in his contract. But because the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not cover arbitration provisions in contracts of employment of transportation workers, the district court refused to order arbitration pending discovery as to whether this exemption applied. New Prime appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed. The court held that whether Oliveira was an employee or a contractor, his contract fell within the FAA’s exclusion of contracts of employment of transportation workers.

New Prime successfully sought review by the Supreme Court on two issues: first, whether the FAA requires that the issue of its own applicability to an arbitration provision be arbitrated if the arbitration provision contains a clause delegating questions of “arbitrability” to an arbitrator; and second, if the issue is one for judicial resolution, whether a contract purporting to identify Oliveira as an independent contractor is a contract of employment within the meaning of the FAA provision excluding such contracts from the Act’s coverage. Public Citizen submitted an amicus curiae brief on the first issue, explaining that the FAA does not permit a court to order arbitration of any issue, including “arbitrability,” unless and until the court decides that the FAA applies to the contract at issue.