Legislation Will Revoke Corporations’ License to Steal
Take Justice Back highlights three stories of Americans’ whose justice was denied by the fine print
When Tia Holloman of Washington, DC, began working for Circuit City, she never imagined that her supervisor and mentor would assault and sexually harass her. She also had no idea that there was a clause hidden in the fine print of the employment contract that would grant Circuit City a license to steal her access to justice. But when she went to hold Circuit City accountable in court, despite having documented previous complaints about the supervisor, video footage, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding in her favor, her case was kicked out of court and sent to forced arbitration.
Cases like Tia’s are all too common. Buried in the fine print of everything from credit card, cell phone and nursing home contracts to employee handbooks and online user agreements are dangerous forced arbitration clauses that take away your right to go to court. Instead you are forced into a private arbitration tribunal designed by the very corporation that broke the law. The process is secretive, costly and rigged so that corporations cannot be held accountable. By removing access to justice, it grants corporations a license to steal and violate the law.
This abusive practice can only be stopped if Congress acts. Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) have introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 (AFA) [S.878 / H.R.1844] to restore Americans’ rights. The AFA would stop corporations from forcing people into arbitration and ensure that our rights are not eliminated by the fine print. 18 Senators and 22 Representatives signed-on as original cosponsors of the bill.
Forced arbitration allows corporations to wipe out important rights created by federal law, such as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Javier Rivera, an Army Reservist from Florida, was called to active duty and was told he would be deployed for six months. Javier claims he gave his employer adequate notice. Under USERRA he should have had his job when he returned home. However, according to court documents, his employers filled his position and despite having 900 documented job openings, they could not find a single position for Javier in their company. A forced arbitration clause in his employment contract denied Javier justice.
When Americans lose access to the courts, corporations can get away with the worst. These clauses often target society’s most vulnerable – nursing home patients like Richard Embry of Kentucky. In 2008, Richard was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with injuries that paralyzed him. Richard was transferred to a nursing home where his daughter, Kristen, was asked to sign the admission documents. Kristen says the nursing home employee assured her she did not need to read the documents before signing them. During his four month stay at the facility, Richard developed bed sores so severe they led to his death. When Kristen filed a lawsuit against the nursing home, it was dismissed and forced into arbitration because of a hidden forced arbitration clause in the admission documents. Adding insult to injury, the arbitrator hand-picked by the nursing home was prohibited by the state from hearing health care claims. Kristen has been unable to pursue justice for her father’s death.
- The AFA would eliminate forced arbitration in employment, consumer, civil rights, and anti-trust cases.
- The AFA would ensure that the decision to arbitrate is truly voluntary.
- The AFA would restore fundamental rights created by state and federal laws that are currently at risk of being wiped out by forced arbitration.
Laws at Risk
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991
- Credit Repair Organizations Act
- Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
- Electronic Fund Transfer Act
- Equal Pay Act
- Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- False Claims Act
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (amending the Military Lending Act)
- Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
- Right to Financial Privacy Act
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Securities Act of 1933
- Securities Exchange Act of 1934
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
- Sherman Antitrust Act
- Telephone Consumer Protection Act
- The civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
- Truth in Lending Act
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)