On October 30, 2018, in Washington D.C., the Restoring Justice for Workers Act was introduced to overrule the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis.
In May 2018, Epic Systems v. Lewis allowed employers to use forced arbitration clauses to prevent workers from accessing their legal rights. These clauses are typically buried in fine print. Employers could collectively force their employees to waive their rights to pursue work-related claims.
Arbitration is an alternative to filing a lawsuit that is designed to streamline legal issues in a cost-conscious manner. In almost any arbitration, the complaining party will send the opposing party a notice of their intent to arbitrate a dispute. There is generally a period for response, following by a selection of arbitrators, and the actual hearing.
In forced arbitration, a company can require consumers or employees to submit any dispute that may arise to binding arbitration. The employee or consumer is required to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal. In the end, forced arbitration is mandatory, the decision is binding, and the results are not made public.
While voluntary arbitration isn’t inherently bad, forced is preferred by companies because it benefits them. Some of the most common problems involve individuals being unaware of what they’ve agreed to and limited resolution options. Employees then cannot sue for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination.
This new piece of legislation, which was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), will do the following:
- Prohibit employers from requiring employees to waive their rights to engage in legal actions
- Prohibit the use of forced arbitration clauses
- Give workers’ the right to band together to hold negligent employers accountable
- Ensure workers’ rights are enforceable through the justice system
The Restoring Justice for Worker Act will be introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who is a Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Ranking Member. Murray had the following to say regarding the legislation:
“I’m proud to stand with Representatives Nadler and Scott to end forced individual arbitration, which tilts the playing field against working people who have been wronged on the job. This legislation ensures that every worker maintains access to justice in a court of law and the right to join together with coworkers in collective claims, and I plan to push to get this bill passed and signed into law as soon as possible to make these protections real for workers in Washington state and nationwide.”
The legislation has 57 cosponsors.