Justia Summary

Saxon, a Southwest Airlines ramp supervisor, frequently loads and unloads cargo alongside the ramp agents. Alleging that Southwest was failing to pay proper overtime wages to ramp supervisors, Saxon brought a putative class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Saxon’s employment contract required her to arbitrate wage disputes individually; she claimed that ramp supervisors were a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Seventh Circuit, holding that the act of loading cargo onto a vehicle to be transported interstate is itself commerce according to the “ordinary, contemporary, common meaning” of the word. By referring to “workers” rather than “employees,” the FAA directs attention to “the performance of work” and the word “engaged” similarly emphasizes the actual work that class members typically carry out. Saxon is a member of a “class of workers” based on what she frequently does, physically loading and unloading cargo on and off airplanes, and not on what Southwest does generally. Exempted workers must at least play a direct and “necessary role in the free flow of goods” across borders. Cargo loaders exhibit this central feature of a transportation worker.