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Groups to Tech Industry: The Era of Forced Arbitration Must End

Feb. 8, 2018

Groups to Tech Industry: The Era of Forced Arbitration Must End

Public Interest Organizations Call on Major Technology Companies to Remove Forced Arbitration Clauses – Which Deny Justice to Victims of Sexual Harassment – from Employee Contracts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Technology companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter should no longer deny justice to workers by requiring them to sign forced arbitration clauses to gain employment, Public Citizen and a coalition of groups said in letters to the companies.

These clauses deny victims of sexual harassment the right to air their claims in public courts, consigning them to secret arbitration systems that are often biased in favor of employers and deny employees the rights and protections afforded by the civil justice system.

Public Citizen is launching a national campaign to remove forced arbitration provisions from private sector employment contracts, starting this week with the tech sector. Forced arbitration clauses are used by companies as an effective method to silence claims of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment. Forced arbitration clauses, which use fine-print “take-it-or-leave it” agreements to rig the system, have become ubiquitous in agreements governing bank accounts, student loans, cell phones, employment and even nursing home admissions. These clauses deprive people of their day in court when they are harmed by violations of the law.

The groups participating in this national effort are experts and powerhouses in fighting mandatory arbitration. They include Public Citizen, the National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association and Women’s Law Project, as well as nationally renowned scholars in the field of employment law and forced arbitration.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 60.1 million people, more than half of non-union, private sector employees, have signed away their right to go to court if harmed by their employer. This campaign will target major sectors of the American economy, starting with the tech sector. The goal is to work privately with companies who express a desire to change their practices. Companies that refuse will be targeted more publicly.

Lisa Gilbert, vice president for legislative affairs for Public Citizen, said, “The mushrooming revelations stemming from numerous allegations of sexual harassment at the hands of powerful individuals has shone a bright light on how forced arbitration provisions silence complaints of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”

Forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts are pernicious because they can silence systemic wrongdoing in the workplace. When forced arbitration clauses are combined with class action bans, the situation worsens, as victims are unable to band together to take their claims to court, and neither judges nor arbitrators can assess or remedy the full scope of multiple victim wrongdoing.

“We are at a moment of reckoning for the technology industry and employers nationwide,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Companies can choose to stand on the right side of history or be a stubborn a roadblock to justice. We believe that all responsible companies will choose to stand with their employees on the right side of history.”

Public Citizen’s campaign to remove forced arbitration provisions from private sector employment contracts is part of a larger campaign to shine a light on how forced arbitration provisions hide systemic harassment and discrimination from Hollywood to the halls of Congress. Public Citizen is also working to pass legislation to prevent employers from inserting these insidious provisions in employment contracts and to reform Congress’s own procedures for reporting discrimination and harassment.

The copy of the letter is here.