New Bill in Congress Would Eliminate Employee Arbitration Requirements

February 12, 2021 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON — Former Fox News television host Gretchen Carlson advocated during a congressional hearing Thursday against employment arbitration contracts that limit workers’ rights to sue their employers.

She said they often force employees into silence about misdeeds of their bosses, such as Carlson’s former supervisor who was accused of sexually harassing her.

“Companies don’t want anyone to know about their dirty laundry,” Carlson said. “You get fired and the perpetrator gets to stay on the job and the woman never works again.”

Carlson testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law on the same day a bill was reintroduced in Congress to end a requirement of arbitration in employment contracts.

Called the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, or FAIR Act, it would prohibit pre-dispute arbitration agreements from being enforceable if they require arbitration of an employment, consumer or civil rights claim against a corporation. Arbitration clauses prohibit employees from taking cases to court, which has led to allegations they inhibit rights of workers to hold employers accountable for discrimination, sexual harassment or wage theft.

Carlson’s well-known case resulted from her 2016 lawsuit against then Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes claiming sexual harassment. Afterward, dozens of other women stepped forward to accuse Ailes of harassment.

Carlson tried to sue Ailes and Fox News but initially was blocked by an arbitration clause in her employment contract.

She told the congressional subcommittee that when she understood the legal barrier created by the arbitration clause, it “was one of the darkest days of my life.”

Afterward, “My lawyers told me, ‘You don’t have a case anymore,’” she said.

Further legal maneuvers finally allowed her to override the arbitration clause to present her case in court. The lawsuit led to Ailes’ forced resignation, a $20 million settlement with Fox News and Carlson receiving a public apology.

It also was one of the first high publicity cases that prompted the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

“I truly believe that this legislation will change the landscape of the American workplace,” Carlson said about the FAIR Act.

The bill was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Henry C. Johnson, D-Ga., who also chaired the subcommittee hearing. Two previous attempts to pass the legislation never won Senate approval.

“In forced arbitration, the deck is stacked against the little guy and most often the corporations come out on top,” Johnson said.

He added that only about 3% of employees win their cases in arbitration, partly because the arbitrators are commonly hired by the corporate employers. At the same time, about 60% of the American workforce is bound by arbitration agreements because they have no other options for obtaining employment.

He called arbitration requirements a violation of the plaintiffs’ Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.

Republicans on the subcommittee said eliminating arbitration requirements would create worse alternatives for employees and their employers. They could be forced into lawsuits that would be more expensive and take much longer.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said the speed and lower costs of arbitration meant, “It’s advantageous to litigants on all sides.”

If there are problems with arbitration clauses, “We can reform those things,” he said.

He was joined in arguing in favor of arbitration clauses by G. Roger King, an attorney representing the HR Policy Association, an organization that promotes policies to benefit corporate human resource officers.

“The solution is not to push everybody into the courts,” King said.

He described the courts as already “overrun” with cases. In addition, with arbitration, the plaintiffs play a bigger role in their cases.

“By and large, it’s a system they can participate in,” King said. “They don’t need a lawyer.”

One of the best-known disputes over arbitration clauses was the November 2018 walkout by more than 20,000 employees of technology giant Google.

They were protesting what they described as Google’s policies on “equity and transparency in the workplace,” which included disagreement over its forced arbitration clause in employee contracts.

In February 2019, Google announced it was ending forced arbitration for full-time employees.

In The News

Health

Voting

Employment

Apprenticeships Benefit Individuals and Employers
Employment
Apprenticeships Benefit Individuals and Employers
March 2, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - The Department of Labor’s apprenticeship programs benefit individuals seeking to master skills while gainfully employed, and provides employers with the talent needed to fill the current workforce shortage, according to two Congressmen yesterday. Apprenticeships differ from paid internships in that they are not temporary,... Read More

US Jobless Claims Fall to 730,000 But Layoffs Remain High
Economy
US Jobless Claims Fall to 730,000 But Layoffs Remain High

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week but remained high by historical standards.  Applications for benefits declined 111,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 730,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It is the lowest figure since late... Read More

Biden Picks Ahuja to Head OPM
Employment
Biden Picks Ahuja to Head OPM
February 23, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced he's picked Kiran Ahuja to be his director of the Office of Personnel Management. If confirmed, Ahuja would be the first South Asian and first Asian American woman to lead the agency. Ahuja served for a little more... Read More

Congress Wants to Restore Its Workforce to Well-Being After Tumultuous Year
Mental Health
Congress Wants to Restore Its Workforce to Well-Being After Tumultuous Year
February 19, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A congressional subcommittee tried to assess the well-being and mental health of its own workforce Thursday after a year that one of its members described as “like drinking from a firehose while in freefall.” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-N.Y., was talking about how the COVID-19... Read More

Restaurants Urge Congress to Forgo Minimum Wage Hike
Employment
Restaurants Urge Congress to Forgo Minimum Wage Hike
February 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

The National Restaurant Association is urging Congress not to increase the federal minimum wage as part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. The association said in a letter sent to congressional leaders Tuesday that fast-tracking a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour... Read More

Vaccine Delays Leave Grocery Workers Feeling Expendable
Health
Vaccine Delays Leave Grocery Workers Feeling Expendable

As panicked Americans cleared supermarkets of toilet paper and food last spring, grocery employees gained recognition as among the most indispensable of the pandemic's front-line workers.A year later, most of those workers are waiting their turn to receive COVID-19 vaccines, with little clarity about when that... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top