The Push to End Employee Forced Arbitration

A push is underway across many business sectors to end the long-held practice of employers forcing employees to take workplace disputes to arbitration instead of court.

Forced arbitration, some workers contend, undercuts one of the few means of recourse in cases of company misconduct by forcing secret deliberations.

At issue are forced arbitration clauses that require employees (and consumers) to waive their rights to class-action lawsuits. Such contracts are becoming increasingly ubiquitous: According to a new report from the Center for Popular Democracy, Economic Policy Institute, and National Employment Law Project, forced arbitration will apply to more than 80 percent of the non-union private-sector workforce by 2024.

Unfortunately, corporate interests benefit from the secrecy of such a private system of dispute resolution. As a result, prior legislation limiting forced arbitration has been unable to successfully make its way through Congress. However, there is some cause for optimism thanks to the impact that public awareness is beginning to have.

In fact, some tech companies have begun to alter their policies as they face more forceful objections from staff. For example, workers at Google recently persuaded the company to drop its requirement that employees waive their right to bring disputes against it to court.

Google is unusual in that it is doing away with forced arbitration for employees under all circumstances. Last year tech giants Microsoft and Facebook announced that they would let employees with sexual misconduct complaints pursue their cases in court. But for disputes on other topics, the arbitration requirement remains.

Campaign To End Forced Arbitration

Ultimately, any structural change will fall to Congress. Two bills put forward by Democrats would shore up enforcement: The Restoring Justice for Workers Act would ban mandatory arbitration and collective-action waivers in labor contracts, canceling Epic Systems. The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act would go further, eliminating forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, anti-trust, and civil rights disputes.

A new poll of 1,200 voters by Hart Research Associates found that 84% supported legislation to end arbitration requirements. The survey found that 87% of Republican respondents and 84% of Democratic supported the bill, and most preferred to have their own disputes heard in court.

If you would like to keep your right to have your disputes decided in public, by a neutral judge and jury, contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to support these bills.

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