March 19, 2014
National Employment Lawyers Association
(202) 898-2880 ext. 115; firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement On The Oakland Raiders’ Motion To Compel Arbitration In Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders—
NELA Urges Congress To Enact The Arbitration Fairness Act
(Washington, DC) – On Friday, March 14, 2014, a significant development occurred in the case of Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders, a class action filed in California state court by the team’s employee cheerleaders, known as the Raiderettes, alleging violations of California’s wage and hour laws and other statutes.
"The Raiders are using their unequal power against these women to enforce a dubious forced arbitration provision that would strip them of their right to have their day in court," said Terisa E. Chaw, Executive Director of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). "Rather than have a judge or jury hear the women’s claims in a court of law, they are being required to present their dispute to Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League."
NELA Legislative & Public Policy Director Julie M. Strandlie added, "That’s right—the NFL Commissioner, whose $44.2 million salary is paid by the defendants in this case, would be the ultimate arbiter of fact and law. As an ESPN commentator asked yesterday regarding a legal matter involving another NFL team owner, 'Roger Goodell, how do you discipline one of your bosses?'"
Arbitration is an appropriate way to resolve disputes when it is knowingly and voluntarily agreed to by the employee and employer after a dispute arises. This includes workers’ legal rights to challenge discriminatory employment practices, violations of wage and hour laws, retaliation for asserting their rights, or other unlawful conduct by the employer.
Unfortunately, the Raiderettes are among the millions of workers across America who are compelled by their employers to give up their rights to go to court and a trial by jury by forced arbitration clauses. Forced arbitration is anathema to our public justice system because it occurs in secret, private tribunals in the absence of accompanying legal safeguards such as a written record of the arbitration proceedings, the right to appeal the arbitrator's decision if the law is not applied correctly, or other guarantees that ensure a fair process. Ms. Chaw observed, "Because of the secretive nature of forced arbitration, we will never know if Commissioner Goodell, who is not a lawyer, gives the cheerleaders a fair hearing and properly applies the laws involved in the case should they be compelled to arbitrate their claims before him."
This widespread employer practice affects every segment of the workforce—from minimum wage workers to professionals to our nation’s service members—who must give up their rights under federal, state, and local anti-discrimination and other worker protection laws in order to get or keep a job. Employers have now added to their arsenal of forced arbitration clauses language that prohibits workers from joining together as a group to seek redress for violations of their rights, making it even more difficult for workers to obtain justice.
This is why Congress must pass the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 (AFA, S. 878/H.R. 1844), sponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Henry C. "Hank" Johnson (D-GA). The AFA would amend the Federal Arbitration Act 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.
NELA encourages the public to contact their own U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to cosponsor and actively support the enactment of this legislation. For more information, please visit the NELA, Fair Arbitration Now, and Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP websites.
# # #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 69 circuit, state, and local affiliates have more than 3,000 members around the country.