The FAIR Act (The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act) was recently reintroduced in Congress. If passed, this law would ban mandatory arbitration agreements, which take away the rights of workers and consumers to sue in court or take part in class-action lawsuits. It would allow employees to sue their employers in court in cases of wage theft, harassment, discrimination, or other violations of their employment rights.
Over the past several years, employers have included forced arbitration clauses in employee handbooks, incentive compensation plans, and employment agreements, aimed at preventing workers from going to court if they think their rights have been violated in the workplace. Today, roughly 60 million workers are subject to forced arbitration. Estimates are that by 2024, more than 80 percent of private-sector, non-union workers will be subject to forced arbitration.
While employers often argue that arbitration is quicker and easier to resolve disputes with their workers, the system puts workers at a real disadvantage. Arbitration is often confidential, making it nearly impossible to track an arbitrator’s record on the decisions he or she has made. Confidentiality also protects employers from exposing their illegal actions. Arbitration rules have few legal safeguards that protect individual workers, including limits on the ability to obtain key evidence needed to prove their claims. Arbitration can also include high fees and “loser pays” rules that make it too expensive for most workers to go through the process.
According to Jeffrey A. Mittman, Executive Director of the National Employment Lawyer’s Association forced arbitration “strips vulnerable workers of the right to enforce laws that were designed to protect them when they are victims of illegal treatment in the workplace. Forced arbitration favors employers and coerces workers into losing either their rights or their jobs.” The FAIR Act would prohibit forced arbitration for employment, consumer, antitrust, and civil rights disputes. It would keep companies from forcing individuals, workers, and small businesses to agree to be bound by arbitration before a dispute has occurred. Instead, workers would have the choice to agree to arbitration after an employment dispute arises. In addition, the FAIR Act would not affect collective bargaining agreements that require arbitration between unions and employers.
The FAIR Act has overwhelming public support. According to one national survey, 84 percent of the public supports federal legislation that ends the practice of forcing workers and consumers into arbitration. The FAIR Act is good for workers because it will ensure that they can protect their rights in court if their rights are violated at work. You can support the passage of the FAIR Act by contacting your Ohio Senators and Congressional Representatives.
Employment laws covering worker’s rights are always changing. Our attorneys work constantly to stay up to date with the latest changes and are here to help workers protect their rights. Find more information on the FAIR Act here.