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Reps. Nadler, Johnson, Cicilline, Scott & Sen. Blumenthal Introduce Legislation to Keep Courthouse Doors Open for Consumers, Workers

Members Held Press Conference with former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson, Google employees, Chipotle workers, and other Americans whose access to justice has been curtailed by forced arbitration

Washington, February 28, 2019

Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Judiciary Subcommittee Chairs Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and David N. Cicilline (D-RI), and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) held a press conference to announce the introduction of a package of bills to end the use of forced arbitration in consumer, antitrust, employment, and civil rights disputes. The legislation would greatly restore Americans’ rights to seek justice through the courts.

The Members were joined by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson; organizers of the Google walkout who pushed their employer to end a policy that silenced victims of sexual harassment and discrimination; Chipotle employees who were reportedly made to work hours off the clock without pay and then forced into arbitration to recoup their stolen wages; and other Americans who have been blocked from seeking justice.

“I am proud to join Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Johnson as an original cosponsor of the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, or the FAIR Act, which would end the use of forced arbitration in consumer, employment, civil rights, and antitrust disputes,” said Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “I am also pleased to announce that together with Chairman Scott of the Committee on Education & Labor and Ranking Member Patty Murray of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, I will re-introduce the Restoring Justice for Workers Act. Victims of sexual assault, racial discrimination, and other forms of corporate abuse and misconduct deserve their day in court. As the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I will not rest until we have fully restored these rights by passing historic legislation to end forced arbitration.”

“Forced arbitration agreements undermine our indelible Constitutional right to trial by jury, benefiting powerful businesses at the expense of American consumers and workers,” said Rep. Johnson, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Court, Intellectual Property and the Internet. “Americans with few choices in the marketplace may unknowingly cede their rights when they enter contracts to buy a home or a cell phone, place a loved one in a nursing home, or start a new job. We must fight to defend our rights and re-empower consumers.”

“There is a lot of use of the phrase ‘rigged system’ these days,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “One of the systems that is truly rigged against consumers, workers, and the American people is our current system of forced arbitration. Forced arbitration is unfair, unjust, and un-American. One of the fundamental principles of our American democracy is that everyone gets their day in court. Forced arbitration deprives Americans of that basic right. This kind of injustice has to end. The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act is a measure whose time has come.”

“The men and women who serve our country in uniform deserve nothing but the best,” said Congressman David Cicilline, who also introduced a separate bill on forced arbitration — the Justice for Servicemembers Act. “For all the sacrifices they make overseas, they shouldn’t worry about whether they’ll have a job when they come home. I’m proud to be introducing this bill today to protect their legal rights. I hope Congress will move swiftly to do right by our brave men and women.”

“Forced arbitration clauses buried in the fine print hurt everyone,” said Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice. “If corporations know they won’t ever be held publicly responsible, our civil rights, as well as our public health and safety are at risk, from the cars we drive, to the jobs we take, and the food we eat. That’s what makes this legislation so important, and I commend the advocates and Members of Congress who stood up today to demand action.”

Below is the legislation introduced today: 

H.R. 1423, The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act (Johnson-Blumenthal): would end the use of forced arbitration in consumer, worker, civil rights, and antitrust disputes. The House bill has 147 cosponsors. Sen. Blumenthal introduced the companion bill in the Senate, which has 34 cosponsors.

Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act (Bustos-Jayapal-Gillibrand): would end the use of forced arbitration in disputes involving sexual harassment or discrimination.

Below is the legislation announced today:

The Restoring Justice for Workers Act (Nadler-Scott-Murray): will be introduced to restore workers’ rights by ending the use of forced arbitration in employment disputes and ensuring the enforcement of workers’ protections under the National Labor Relations Act.

The Justice for Servicemembers Act (Cicilline-Takano): restores the rights of veterans, servicemembers, and their families by end the use of forced arbitration in cases under the Uniform Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The Fairness in Long-Term Care Arbitration (Sanchez): ensures that older Americans in long term care facilities have access to the courts by ending the use of forced arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements. 

Forced arbitration clauses restrict Americans’ access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their right to go to court. Instead, consumers and workers are forced into an unfair arbitration system where corporations can write the rules; everything can be done in secret, without public rulings; discovery can be limited, making it hard for consumers to get the evidence they need to prove their case; and there’s no meaningful judicial review, so consumers and employees are often unable to appeal a decision even if the arbitrator gets it wrong. 

Video of today’s event is available here

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