02.28.19

Leahy Leads Eight Senators In Reintroducing Reforms To Restore The Rights Of Americans Deprived Of Justice By Forced Arbitration

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday reintroduced his legislation to restore the rights of Americans who are forced into forced arbitration in civil rights cases, sexual harassment claims, employment disputes and other legal cases.  Forced arbitration clauses are often included in contracts that Americans must sign for employment, a bank account or credit card, or myriad other everyday activities, precluding them from seeking remedies in court.

The Restoring Statutory Rights Act would ensure that when Congress or the states have created rights and remedies for injured victims, those victims are able to enforce those rights and remedies in court.  It also makes clear that when states take action to address forced arbitration – as Vermont and other states have tried to do – federal law should not interfere.

There is growing recognition that forced arbitration clauses are neither fair nor ethically defensible.  Just last week, Google joined the ranks of tech companies like Adobe and Inuit and announced it would end the practice of mandatory arbitration for employees.  Google had been facing mounting pressure since November when 20,000 employees walked out demanding an end to their employer’s policy of forced arbitration.  And this week, Vox Media announced they will not enforce existing mandatory arbitration clauses in employment agreements and will not include them in future contracts.

Despite this, thousands of other corporations still deprive employees and consumers their day in court.  Leahy notes that in light of the #MeToo movement – where the epidemic of sexual violence is finally facing its public reckoning – it is unacceptable that victims continue to be deprived an opportunity for justice because of arbitration agreements tucked away in legal fine print.

Leahy said:  “It’s unacceptable that thousands of American corporations continue to use forced arbitration to deny customers and employees their day in court.  Forced arbitration has been used to conceal some of the worst corporate abuses of the past few years.  The Restoring Statutory Rights Act protects states like Vermont that choose to end this practice that runs counter to the fundamental principles of justice that this country was founded on.”

The Restoring Statutory Rights Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

On Thursday Leahy also joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in reintroducing the Safety Over Forced Arbitration Act, which would prohibit mandatory pre-dispute arbitration in cases affecting the public health and safety.  Leahy also joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in introducing the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which renders unenforceable any pre-dispute arbitration agreement or pre-dispute joint action waiver that governs an employment, civil rights, consumer, or antitrust dispute.

Full text of the bill can be found HERE.

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