FAN Coalition Commends the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Airing the Injustice of Forced Arbitration | The American Association For Justice
For Immediate Release: May 16, 2019

FAN Coalition Commends the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Airing the Injustice of Forced Arbitration

Hearing today on “Justice Denied: Forced Arbitration and the Erosion of our Legal System”
Contact:
Carly Moore Sfregola
Email:
carly.sfregola@justice.org
Phone:
202-684-9609

Washington – Fair Arbitration Now (FAN) applauds the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, chaired by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), for holding a hearing today on the increasingly urgent topic of forced arbitration. Subcommittee members heard from a Navy Reservist fired from his job when he was deployed, a nationally recognized law professor, an attorney expert, and sexual assault survivor and activist Gretchen Carlson. The hearing explored how forced arbitration prevents cheated or harmed consumers, patients and employees from holding corporations that violate the law accountable.

The hearing comes as Congress is considering legislation to prohibit forced arbitration. The FAIR Act (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) was introduced by Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Senator Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) and currently has over 200 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 34 sponsors in the Senate.

Subcommittee members heard from:

  • Professor Myriam Gilles, Professor of Law, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who explained how forced arbitration takes away the constitutional rights of workers and consumers and undermines civil justice.
  • Ms. Gretchen Carlson, a journalist, author, and advocate, described her ordeal as a former Fox News personality who was forced into arbitration when she fought back against sexual harassment.
  • Mr. Deepak Gupta, Founding Principal, Gupta Wessler PLLC, who has argued in the U.S. Supreme Court’s on some key cases interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act. 
  • Mr. Kevin Ziober, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserves, who described how forced arbitration prevented him from holding his former employer accountable after he was fired the day before he deployed to Afghanistan.

“Testifying before the House today was a landmark day in my mission to make workplaces safer for all women and men. Forced Arbitration is a harasser’s best friend because it forces the cases of women who are facing harassment or any other kind of gender discrimination into a secret chamber where no one ever knows what happened to them,” said Gretchen Carlson. “Now is the time for both parties to come together to end this practice and do something right for women today and future generations of all men and women who deserve a safe work environment.”

“It was an honor to speak on behalf of servicemembers, veterans and workers who have been unjustly forced into arbitration. Arbitration takes away so many rights that make our legal system fair,” said Kevin Ziober, a Navy Reservist and victim of forced arbitration. “I joined the military because I care about my country and my fellow Americans and that’s exactly why I came to Washington today, to stand up in defense of our fundamental constitutional rights.”

 “Thank you to Representatives Cicilline, Johnson, Jayapal and Raskin and other leaders for speaking out against forced arbitration in today’s important hearing. Momentum is building to end forced arbitration, which for too long has destroyed the rights of millions of Americans to seek justice when they are physically and financially harmed by corporations,” said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen. “The hearing exposed how the insidious practice of forced arbitration undermines constitutional rights, conceals misconduct and stops the development of rule of law – now, Congress needs to act by passing the FAIR Act and ending forced arbitration.”

“The hidden secret in contracts that Americans sign when they accept job offers, buy a cell phone, take out a loan or enter a retirement home is the nefarious “rip-off clause.” This clause forces them into arbitration proceedings as an alternative to their right to go to court when harmed,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen. “We can’t have one more worker sign away their rights when they start a career, nor can we have one more abused grandmother be robbed of her day in court. The FAIR Act is long overdue.”

“The FAIR Act is an important step in restoring access to justice for those who have been harmed and ensuring that systemic claims of wrongdoing are no longer hidden from public view in a privatized system of justice,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen. “We will continue to work with the many organizations committed to ending the practice of forced arbitration to urge Congress to quickly act.”

“It’s critically important for the American people to hear the true stories of individuals harmed by the abusive anti-consumer practice of forced arbitration, and we applaud the House panel that brought those stories to light in testimony at today’s hearing,” said Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice. “The FAIR Act is a very important step toward ending forced arbitration, which hurts consumers and employees and has especially harmful consequences for seniors, students, patients, veterans and other vulnerable communities. We strongly support this legislation, which is long overdue.”

“Forced arbitration takes away people’s right to have their day in court, and employer-imposed class and collective waivers also take away the right of people to act together to challenge wrongdoing. These clauses are a backdoor way of repealing laws on the books,” says National Employment Law Project  General Counsel Catherine Ruckelshaus. “Wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-harassment laws, and more—these protections are of little use if workers can’t enforce them. Law-abiding businesses lose out too, as unscrupulous competitors gain unfair advantage by breaking the law without any consequences.”

"The FAIR Act would restore our constitutional right to access the courts and end the forced arbitration get-out-of-jail free card that lets corporate lawbreakers violate the law with impunity," said National Consumer Law Center Associate Director Lauren Saunders.

“"Big Wall Street banks and other powerful corporations use forced arbitration to hide their wrongdoing and prevent people they rip off from seeking justice in court,” said Linda Jun, senior policy counsel for Americans for Financial Reform. “This legislation will restore ordinary people's rights to hold companies that harm them accountable."

“Forced arbitration clauses do terrible harm to honest, hard-working people. Working people all across our nation rely on the laws they know Congress has passed to protect them from wage theft, discrimination and harassment, and many other forms of illegal mistreatment on the job. But without access to the courthouse, workers lose and corporations gain—regardless of the severity of the employer’s conduct,” stated Terry O’Neill, Executive Director of the National Employment Lawyers Association. “Forced arbitration allows employers to violate and ignore the legal protections workers count on, and to keep their mistreatment of employees a well-guarded secret. The FAIR Act will do just what it promises—restore some measure of fairness to the relationship between working people and their employers. The National Employment Lawyers Association applauds Representatives Cicilline, Johnson, Jayapal and Raskin for taking a stand against the injustice of forced arbitration.”

"Car dealers got Congress to restore their Constitutional rights, so they are free to pursue justice in an open, public court of law. But Republicans in Congress and President Trump deny the same rights to consumers victimized by car dealers and other lawbreakers. All Americans deserve to have the same freedoms Congress granted to car dealers," said Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

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