April 29, 2015

CONTACT
Laura M. Flegel, Legislative & Public Policy Director
(202) 898-2880 ext. 115; lflegel@nelahq.org

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The National Employment Lawyers Association
Applauds Bill Banning Forced Arbitration Restoring Access To America’s Civil Justice System

(Washington, DC) – The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), the country’s largest professional organization of lawyers who represent individual employees in cases involving employment discrimination and other disputes with their employers, applauds the leadership of Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) in introducing the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015 (AFA). One of NELA’s top legislative priorities, passage of the AFA will restore fairness and access to America’s civil justice system for workers to vindicate violations of their workplace rights. Forced arbitration of employment disputes often occurs behind closed doors rather than in a public forum, enabling employers to keep their wrongdoing confidential and hidden from public scrutiny. This practice hurts not only employees but businesses as well. The AFA amends the Federal Arbitration Act by making it unlawful for employers to impose arbitration on employees except when knowingly and voluntarily agreed upon after a dispute arises or pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

The AFA will correct decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that have perverted the purpose of the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted to regulate voluntary arbitration agreements between commercial parties with equal bargaining power. Forced arbitration is imposed by employers on employees—it is not voluntary and there is no informed consent by the employee. Moreover, it is virtually impossible for an employee to evaluate and make an educated choice about the appropriateness of a resolution mechanism prior to the existence of an actual employment dispute.

Terisa E. Chaw, NELA’s Executive Director, stated, “Forced arbitration is a private system that is fundamentally inferior to the American public civil justice system. It lacks procedural guarantees of fairness and due process, public accountability, and transparency.” Ms. Chaw added, “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. The time has come for Congress to outlaw forced arbitration for all of America’s workers.”

The AFA does not ban voluntary arbitration. NELA strongly supports arbitration when it is voluntarily and knowingly agreed upon by the employee post-dispute. NELA also supports arbitration pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between employers and unions, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. NELA urges Congress to ban the practice of forced arbitration by enacting the Arbitration Fairness Act without delay.

Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015: S. 1113 | H.R. 2087

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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 69 circuit, state, and local affiliates have more than 4,000 members around the country.

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