Forced arbitration has been a “thorn in the side” of American consumers for at least the past two decades. It has especially been hurtful in the workplace. There have been lots of folks whose constitutional right to a jury trial were taken away. The following is a statement from American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Lisa Blue Baron on the announcement of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order issued by the White House. This order is certainly a step in the right direction.
We are pleased and strongly encouraged by the announcement of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which will restore access to justice for millions of Americans whose rights have been eliminated by the abusive practice of forced arbitration. For far too long, corporations have used forced arbitration to deny Americans their Constitutional and statutory rights by kicking employees and consumers out of court and sending them to a dispute mill that is rigged, secretive, contains virtually no right to appeal, and consistently favors corporate America. This executive order is a tremendous victory for all employees of big corporations that do business with the government. Now workers will be able to enforce their rights to be employed in a workplace free from discrimination.
Still, there are other fundamental federal and state laws that workers will not be able to enforce in court because of forced arbitration. Forced arbitration also prevents credit card users, nursing home residents, service members, and students from holding corporate wrongdoers accountable. We must continue the fight to ban forced arbitration in all contexts, otherwise there is nothing to prevent corporations from eviscerating Americans’ rights with the fine print.
The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order prohibits corporations with federal contracts of $1 million or more from subjecting their employees to forced arbitration for accusations of employment discrimination or civil suits related to sexual assault or harassment. This prohibition extends to all employees – not just those performing work related to the federal contract. The Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers. In addition to the ban on forced arbitration for disputes under Title VII, and sexual assault and harassment, the executive order will:
Because corporations with workplace violations are more likely to encounter performance problems, today’s action will also improve the efficiency of federal contracting and result in savings to American taxpayers.
If Congress would really get involved and pass badly needed legislation to restrict the use of forced arbitration, things would then get better for victims of corporate wrongdoing and abuse. Hopefully, we will see some movement in Congress after the general election.
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