Equal Pay Day Sparks Groundswell of Congressional Action to Stop Forced Arbitration from Eliminating Americans’ RightsApril 12,2016
Washington, DC— The American Association for Justice (AAJ) applauds Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-GA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for introducing legislation today in the United States House of Representatives that will re-open the courthouse doors to women who have been unlawfully denied equal pay for equal work. The “Restoring Statutory Rights Act of 2016” would prohibit corporations from using forced arbitration when state and federal laws grant Americans the right to hold that corporation accountable in court. The bill was introduced on “Equal Pay Day,” which equal rights advocates observe to recognize the gender pay gap. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Judy Chu (D-CA), and David Cicilline (D-RI) signed on as original co-sponsors.
“It is shocking that, in 2016, equal pay does not yet exist but forced arbitration is thriving,” said Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice. “Congress and the states have passed numerous laws designed to empower individuals to enforce fundamental rights in court, but for too long, forced arbitration has allowed corporations to evade these laws by funneling individuals into a rigged, secretive arbitration forum.”
Corporations use forced arbitration to evade laws that promote equality and prohibit discrimination, including the Equal Pay Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In forced arbitration, all claims are heard by a private arbitrator chosen by the corporate defendant, who is not required to follow the law, and whose decision is almost impossible to appeal.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the “Restoring Statutory Rights Act” [S. 2506] in the United States Senate in February. Today, in honor of Equal Pay Day, a total of 10 women Senators have signed on as Senate co-sponors, including: Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Senator Warren (D-MA) is already a cosponsor of the bill.
“These Senators tirelessly fight to preserve and strengthen Americans’ civil rights, and we applaud them for today joining efforts to ensure that corporations cannot circumvent these laws with forced arbitration,” Ms. Lipsen said. “The Restoring Statutory Rights Act should send a clear message to corporations that use forced arbitration to evade equal protection laws: When Congress passes a law, they mean it.”
In addition to the “Restoring Statutory Rights Act,” Congress is also considering the “Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015” [S. 1133/H.R. 2087], introduced by Sen. Al Franken [D-MN] and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), which would prohibit the use of forced arbitration in consumer and employment disputes.