Democrats reintroduced federal legislation aimed at limiting the use of forced arbitration clauses, arguing they prevent Americans from seeking justice through the court system. U.S. Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., along with U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2017.
The legislation, previously introduced in 2011 and 2015, would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, civil rights and antitrust cases. The Arbitration Fairness Act, like the Federal Arbitration Act’s original intent, would require agreements to arbitrate employment, consumer, civil rights or anti-trust disputes be made after the dispute has arisen. The bill would not prohibit arbitration, but instead ensure that individuals have a meaningful choice about how to proceed with their claim.
“For years, I’ve been fighting to re-open the courtroom doors to consumers, workers, and small businesses in Minnesota,” said Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Our legislation, the Arbitration Fairness Act, would help restore everyday Americans’ right to challenge unfair practices in court and ensure meaningful legal recourse.
“We’re at a point where big corporations can write their own rules and insulate themselves from liability for wrongdoing. That needs to change.”
“Forced arbitration closes the courthouse doors to Americans wishing to seek justice for a variety of civil claims, including sexual harassment and workplace discrimination,” Johnson said. “These arbitration clauses are often unwittingly entered into by consumers when they sign everyday contracts such as cell phone, car rental, credit card and nursing home agreements to name a few.”
The Georgia congressman argues forced arbitration undermines fundamental rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution, federal and state law.
“Contrary to popular belief, arbitration decisions are final, binding, non-appealable, and strongly in favor of corporations,” he said. “The result is a secretive and rigged process that prevents citizens from exercising their fundamental 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury.”
Leahy agreed. “These dangerous provisions force us to abandon our Constitutional right to protect ourselves in court, and instead send hardworking Americans to face wealthy corporations behind closed-doors in private arbitration,” he said. “This must change.”