Ranking Members Nadler, Scott & Murray Release Bill to End Forced Arbitration in the Workplace, Restoring Critical Rights for American Workers

Oct 30, 2018 Issues: Jobs, Labor and the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced H.R. 7109, the Restoring Justice for Workers Act, legislation to overrule the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis by ending forced arbitration clauses and protecting workers’ ability to pursue work-related claims in court. The legislation will be introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member.

Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler: “For far too long, corporations have tied the hands of American workers through the use of forced arbitration clauses, which are often buried in the fine print of employment contracts and used as a precondition for employment. Forced arbitration strips working Americans of their day in court to hold employers accountable for wage theft, discrimination, harassment and many other forms of misconduct. I am proud to introduce the Restoring Justice for Workers Act to finally put an end to this exploitation of American workers and to ensure they have equal protection under the law to hold their employers accountable for illegal behavior.”

Ranking Member Bobby Scott: “Workers should not be coerced into signing away their rights as a condition of their employment, but that is the reality for millions of workers across the country. Companies are increasingly using mandatory arbitration agreements to slam the courthouse door on their employees, denying them a fair venue to seek recourse for wage theft, discrimination, or sexual harassment. The Supreme Court’s divided 5-4 decision in Epic went further by enabling employers to undermine employees’ right to stand together in a collective or class action lawsuit. The Restoring Justice for Workers Act protects employees’ fundamental right to have their day in court and join with their co-workers to hold companies accountable for unlawful conduct.”

Ranking Member Patty Murray: “I’m proud to stand with Representatives Nadler and Scott to end forced individual arbitration, which tilts the playing field against working people who have been wronged on the job. This legislation ensures that every worker maintains access to justice in a court of law and the right to join together with coworkers in collective claims, and I plan to push to get this bill passed and signed into law as soon as possible to make these protections real for workers in Washington state and nationwide.”

The Restoring Justice for Workers Act:

  • Opens the courthouse doors for workers by prohibiting the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts and prohibiting employers from requiring employees to waive their right to engage in joint, class, or collective legal action;
  • Reverses the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Epic Systems, which dismantled workers’ right to band together to hold unscrupulous employers accountable; 
  • Upholds the rule of law, a cornerstone of our democracy, by ensuring that workers’ rights are enforceable through our justice system;
  • Ensures that postdispute arbitration agreements are not obtained by threat or coercion, that the agreement is understandable, and that the employee affirmatively consents to the agreement in writing and is fully aware of their rights in the workplace.

In May 2018, the Supreme Court held in Epic Systems v. Lewis that employers can use forced arbitration clauses to prevent workers from banding together to enforce their legal rights. This decision allows employers to force workers to waive their right to pursue work-related claims collectively. Forced arbitration clauses are often buried in the fine print of employment contracts and signed in haste by employees as a precondition for employment without the benefit of legal counsel. These clauses are often used by businesses to limit scrutiny and accountability for unlawful conduct, eviscerating workers’ statutory and common law rights against abuse in the workplace. In 2017, the Economic Policy Institute reported that more than 60 million workers “no longer have access to the courts to protect their legal employment rights and instead must go to arbitration.”

The legislation has 57 cosponsors, including: Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Bobby C. Scott, (D-VA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Karen Bass (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Luis V Gutiérrez (D-IL), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL); Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Susan A. Davis (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Paul D. Tonko (D-NY), John Garamendi (D-CA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT), Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), and Ted W. Lieu (D-CA).

In addition to Ranking Member Murray, the Senate companion bill will also be cosponsored by: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH).

View the bill text here.

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