December 17, 2013

National Employment Lawyers Association
(202) 898-2880 ext. 115;

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The National Employment Lawyers Association
Commends Senate Judiciary Committee For Examining
Forced Arbitration's Impact On Access To Justice

(Washington, DC) - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "The Federal Arbitration Act and Access to Justice."

The answer to the Committee's question, "The Federal Arbitration Act and Access to Justice: Will Recent Supreme Court Decisions Undermine the Rights of Consumers, Workers, and Small Businesses?," is a resounding "yes." Recent Supreme Court rulings have misapplied the original intent of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and have undermined the rights of workers, consumers, and small businesses, including servicemembers returning from Afghanistan, parents who need child care, and the millions of Americans who use credit cards.

The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 (AFA, S. 878/H.R. 1844), introduced in Congress by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Henry C. "Hank" Johnson (D-GA) would amend the FAA by making it unlawful for employers to impose arbitration on employees except when knowingly and voluntarily agreed to after the dispute arises or pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. The AFA does not ban voluntary arbitration. Senator Franken presided at the hearing.

"On behalf of millions of America's workers, NELA applauds the legislative efforts of Senator Franken and Representative Johnson to ban pre-dispute forced arbitration of employment claims. Today's hearing shined the light on the insidious practice of employers requiring workers—from minimum wage employees to whistleblowers to U.S. servicemembers to professionals—to give up their rights under federal, state, and local anti-discrimination and other worker protection laws in order to get or keep their jobs. These one-sided forced arbitration provisions, which are imposed by employers on their employees, insulate illegal corporate behavior and deny justice to workers when their rights are violated," said Terisa E. Chaw, NELA's Executive Director.

Congress has already passed laws, with bipartisan support, to ban forced arbitration for disputes involving auto dealers, poultry and livestock producers, and certain employees of federal contractors. NELA Legislative & Public Policy Director Julie M. Strandlie added, "The fact that auto dealers sought legislation to protect them from forced arbitration by automakers, but compel their own employees to arbitrate their workplace disputes is patently unfair and makes no sense. We agree with Senator Charles Grassley's (R-IA) statement that these clauses limit the ability 'to pursue remedies in court, even when violations of Federal or State law are at issue.' We urge Congress to enact the AFA to maintain everyone's right to have their day in court."

NELA joins 43 other public interest organizations in urging Congress to pass this legislation without delay. For more information, please visit NELA's website and the Fair Arbitration Now coalition website.

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The National Employment Lawyers Association advances employee rights and serves lawyers who advocate for equality and justice in the American workplace. NELA provides assistance and support to lawyers in protecting the rights of employees against the greater resources of their employers and the defense bar. It is the country's largest professional organization exclusively comprised of lawyers who represent individual employees in cases involving employment discrimination and other employment-related matters. NELA and its 68 circuit, state, and local affiliates have more than 3,000 members around the country.
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