Matthew Christian is an attorney and partner at Christian & Davis LLC. His primary focus area is nursing home abuse and neglect. He recently wrote the below editorial for the Greenville News.
“If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been required to sign a document with “fine print.”
This can be anything from credit card contracts, to your own employee handbook, to nursing home admissions forms. Any good lawyer would tell you to read the fine print, but few people actually do. That absence of understanding is where many problems can lurk for the average person signing their lives away to corporate giants.
One of the biggest problems that could result from that fine print is forced arbitration – the practice of forcing a consumer, an employee or a patient into closed-door “dispute resolution” outside of a court of law. This strips the individual of the right to seek public justice, hold the powerful accountable, and prevent the same corporate bad actors from harming other individuals.
I’ve spent my legal career fighting for justice for individuals who’ve been physically or financially victimized in the fields of elder abuse, personal injury and medical malpractice. I’ve consoled families whose elderly loved ones were abused physically and sexually by nursing home caregivers but are not able to seek justice against the nursing home in court because they signed on the dotted line below a forced arbitration clause.
You may remember reading about nearly 3,000 Chipotle workers barred by the Supreme Court from participating in a wage-theft lawsuit against the company. They had been forced to sign a class-action waiver before they were hired. So, consequently, they were removed from the lawsuit and stiffed of their hard-earned money.
I was reminded of that case recently when Upstate company Whiteford’s Inc. was ordered to pay back $32,000 in back wages to workers at 30 fast-food establishments operated by the company. Fortunately, nearly 300 workers will now be able to get their due wages, but imagine if red tape kept them from being able to fight for justice.
You may know one of these people – they are your neighbors, in your Sunday School class, or the person who walks his/her dog by your house in the evenings.
Why should they be denied money due to them because a corporate giant wants to save a few bucks on litigation?
Forced arbitration is a travesty that strips people of a Constitutional right to a trial by a jury that is fundamental in our country. Fortunately, Congressional representatives have recently introduced the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act of 2019, seeking to end this unfair practice of mandatory arbitration in “consumer, civil rights, employment, and antitrust’ actions.”
This important bill, introduced in the US House and Senate, would give people back their voice, their rights, and their day in court when physically or financially hurt by a corporation.
I urge you to to contact members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation and ask them to support the FAIR Act. This isn’t about politics. This is about common sense and protecting our neighbors. It’s about what is fair.”