USA: House of Representatives passes law that could end forced arbitration in specific employment discrimination cases

 Photo by Ron Cogswell



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30 September 2019

Of course employers want to talk it out. But workers deserve their day in court

Author: Dariely Rodriguez, Newsweek (USA)

...For the past 30 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 to drastically expand its scope of coverage. As a result, many employers use arbitration clauses as a blank check to not only block workers' access to courts but also hide systemic wrongdoing from the public and minimize corporate accountability.

Last week, the House took a momentous step in the right direction by passing the FAIR Act, legislation that would prohibit forced arbitration agreements in employment, as well as consumer and other agreements. Now, the bill is before the Senate...

Arbitration inherently creates several advantages for corporations. First, the lack of transparency around the proceedings prevents workers from knowing whether other employees at their company have experienced the same illegal conduct. Second, workers often do not have the benefit of a neutral judge or jury. Third, arbitration rules differ notably from legal safeguards present in the courtroom.

Eighty-four percent of Americans support ending forced arbitration, according to a study conducted this past January. Support is largely bipartisan, with 87 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats favoring the end of the insidious practice...

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20 September 2019

House Votes to Ban Forced Arbitration

Author: Emily Peck, Huffington Post

The U.S. House on Friday voted to ban forced arbitration, the increasingly controversial ― and common ― practice of forcing consumers and workers into secret courtrooms where they have no access to a jury and far more limited rights than in the public justice system

The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, or Fair Act, would prohibit companies from using so-called pre-dispute arbitration agreements in all employment, civil rights, consumer and antitrust cases. Under the law, Americans could still choose to take a dispute to arbitration ― which companies like to tout as a faster and cheaper alternative to the judicial system ― but no one would be forced to give up their right to go to court.

Because of the role it plays in sexual discrimination, assault and harassment lawsuits, enabling companies to push women into secret courtrooms and hush up misbehavior, forced arbitration has gotten increased attention in recent years.  A small number of companies, including Microsoft, Uber and Facebook, have even banned forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and discrimination.

About 60 million workers are covered by forced arbitration agreements ― many of whom are unaware they’ve signed away their rights, with agreements tucked away in employee handbooks and buried in employment contracts. 

The bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but anti-arbitration advocates were thrilled to even get a vote in the House.

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20 September 2019

It’s Time to End Forced Arbitration

Author: Galen Sherwin & Vania Leveille, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

If you own a credit card or a bank account, use a ride-sharing service, made an online purchase, or work in corporate America, chances are you have signed a forced arbitration agreement: a promise that, if any disputes arise between you and your employer or the business, you won’t sue. Hidden in the fine-print of a contract you may not even remember signing is language that says you’ve agreed, in advance, to give up your right go to court.

But today, the House of Representatives passed the FAIR Act, legislation that would prohibit the use of forced arbitration in employment discrimination and consumer contract cases. 

Little known to consumers and employees, the use of this sneaky practice is on the rise—it has doubled in scope between the 1990s, and currently impacts more than 60 million workers. These kinds of agreements are prevalent in female dominated industries as well as in low-wage fields and industries dominated by women of color.

The widespread use of forced arbitration agreements is one major reason that many valid sexual harassment cases, and other discrimination cases, never see the light of day — and repeat offenders are not held to account.

 But what they don’t tell you is that arbitration also lacks critical procedural safeguards — for example, permitting access to evidence from the other side that can be the key to proving your claims . . .The arbitrators may or may not be lawyers, and may or may not be trained in resolving discrimination cases. Results are secret, helping companies evade public accountability. The outcome is binding, and there is generally no right to an appeal.

But the FAIR Act could finally allow workers, consumers, and others to choose how they wanted to pursue their dispute.

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