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Murray, Nadler, Scott Introduce Bill to End Forced Arbitration in the Workplace, To Allow Workers to Band Together to Enforce Their Legal Rights

May 15, 2019

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor introduced the Restoring Justice for Workers Act, legislation to end forced arbitration clauses and protect workers’ ability to pursue work-related claims in court.

 

The bill would overrule the 2018 Supreme Court decision, Epic Systems v. Lewis, which allowed employers to continue to require workers to sign forced arbitration clauses. These arbitration clauses prevent workers from banding together to enforce their legal rights and are often buried in the fine print of employment contracts, meaning many workers are not aware they have waived their rights. The use of forced arbitration clauses that block workers’ access to the courts has led to widespread non-enforcement of workers’ rights, including their right to minimum wage, overtime, and to a workplace free of discrimination and sexual harassment.

 

“So many workers are being forced to sign away their rights—many without even knowing they’re doing so—often leaving them with little recourse if they’re cheated out of their pay or harassed in the workplace,” said Senator Murray. “I’m proud to join Chairman Scott and Chairman Nadler to introduce this legislation to ensure every worker maintains access to justice in a court of law and the right to join together with coworkers in collective claims, and I’m going to keep fighting to ensure every worker in Washington state and across the country has access to these protections.”

 

 “I am pleased to join Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Murray to re-introduce the Restoring Justice for Workers Act,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “For far too long, corporations have tied the hands of American workers through the use of forced arbitration clauses, which are often buried in the fine print of employment contracts and used as a precondition for employment. Forced arbitration strips working Americans of their day in court to hold employers accountable for wage theft, discrimination, harassment and many other forms of misconduct. I am proud to introduce the Restoring Justice for Workers Act to finally put an end to this exploitation of American workers and to ensure they have equal protection under the law to hold their employers accountable for illegal behavior. Victims of sexual assault, racial discrimination, and other forms of corporate abuse and misconduct deserve their day in court. As the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I will not rest until we have fully restored these rights by passing historic legislation to end forced arbitration.”

 

“Workers should not be coerced into signing away their rights as a condition of their employment, but that is the reality for millions of workers across the country. Companies are increasingly using mandatory arbitration agreements to slam the courthouse door on their employees, denying them a fair venue to seek recourse for wage theft, discrimination, or harassment. The Supreme Court’s divided 5-4 decision in Epic went further by enabling employers to undermine employees’ right to stand together in a collective or class action lawsuit. The Restoring Justice for Workers Act protects employees’ fundamental right to have their day in court and join with their co-workers to hold companies accountable for unlawful conduct,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott.

 

 

The Restoring Justice for Workers Act:

 

  • Opens the courthouse doors for workers by prohibiting the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts and prohibiting employers from requiring employees to waive their right to engage in joint, class, or collective legal action;
  • Reverses the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Epic Systems, which dismantled workers’ right to band together to hold unscrupulous employers accountable;
  • Protects our democracy by ensuring that the laws Congress passes to protect workers’ rights are enforceable through our justice system;
  • Ensures that postdispute arbitration agreements are not obtained by threat or coercion, that the agreement is understandable, and that the employee affirmatively consents to the agreement in writing and is fully aware of their rights in the workplace.

 

In addition to Senator Murray, the bill was cosponsored by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Casey (D-PA), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), King, (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH) and Warren (D-MA).

 

In addition to Representatives Nadler and Scott, the bill was cosponsored by Representatives David N. Cicilline, Suzanne Bonamici, Cherri Bustos, Gil Cisneros Jr., Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, Rosa DeLauro, Mark DeSaulnier, Debbie Dingell, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, John Garamendi, Jared Golden, Alcee Hastings, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Joseph Kennedy, Dan Kildee, Jim Langevin, Brenda Lawrence, Andy Levin, Alan Lowenthal, Lucy McBath, Betsey McCollum, Donald McEachin, Jim McGovern, Gregory Meeks, Debbie Murcarsel-Powell, Grace Napolitano, Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Porter, Jamie Raskin, Bobby Rush, Tim Ryan, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Smith, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Paul Tonko, Filemon Vela, Nydia Velazquez, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and Kathy Castor.

 

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Issues: 
116th Congress