Recently, Democratic federal legislators proposed a bill to bar companies from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements and also from preventing employees from bringing class actions.
The proposed bill, the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (“FAIR Act”), sponsored by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal and New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, would ban mandatory arbitration in employment agreements, prohibiting employees from taking their claims to court. It would also bar agreements that prevent workers from bringing class action claims against their employers.
Reactions to the Epic Systems v. Lewis Decision
This past summer, the United States Supreme Court ruled in an appropriately named case, Epic Systems v. Lewis, that mandatory arbitrations provisions, as well as waiver of class action claims in employment agreements, were enforceable. Proponents for employees regard the Epic case as a blow to employees’ rights by preventing them from going public with claims, having their day in court and obtaining potentially larger jury awards, among other reasons. In the midst of the recent #MeToo movement and pressure by employees to end mandatory arbitration at high profile companies such as Google and Vox Media, there is a concern that allowing employers to keep claims private and separate will in turn sweep legitimate claims under the rug. Those who favor the Epic decision believe that arbitration provides a more civilized way of dealing with employment disputes because arbitration tends to be faster, cheaper, less obtrusive and private. The FAIR Act would reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Epic.
Future Path of the FAIR Act
While similar bills have been proposed in recent years without moving forward, the FAIR Act has more support in the House of Representatives than in it has had in the past. However, it will face more opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate and it is probably unlikely that President Trump would sign a bill reversing a decision written by his first Supreme Court appointee.
Stay tuned as we keep you updated with the issues that affect you!