On Equal Pay Day, Rep. Chu Calls to End Forced Arbitration
Today, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) joined Reps. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. and John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) to introduce the Restoring Statutory Rights Act. This bill would ensure the rights of consumers and employees to sue for legally established rights and protections, including protection against wage discrimination. The bill amends the Federal Arbitration Act to prohibit mandatory pre-dispute (“forced”) arbitration agreements for claims rising under federal or state statute, the U.S. Constitution, or a state constitution. The bill would further require that a court determines whether an agreement is unconscionable, invalid because there was no meeting of the minds, or otherwise unenforceable as a matter of contract law or public policy. Under current law, parties may resolve statutory claims, including claims rising under anti-discrimination statutes, through forced arbitration. Rep. Chu released the following statement:
“Without many even realizing it, arbitration has become a part of the lives of most Americans. When both sides agree, arbitration can be a powerful dispute resolution mechanism. But as an unilateral requirement buried in the fine print of corporate contracts, it is a tool to shield businesses from consumers and employees seeking justice in the courts, allowing them to get away with discrimination, fraud, and other wrongdoing. The secretive and one-sided arbitration system is biased towards those accused of wrongdoing, and strips individuals of their constitutional right to a jury trial. And so, because of these surreptitious clauses, when a woman is fired in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, or an African-American employee is discriminated against on account of race, they find themselves forced to give up the trial they deserve for the arbitration corporations’ desire.
“Today happens to be Equal Pay Day – the day in 2016 that most women would have to work just to earn what a man in the same job made in 2015 – and so the Restoring Statutory Rights Act of 2016 is particularly fitting. As one of the tools corporations use to shield themselves from the justice system, forced arbitration keeps the wage gap open. Besides the injustice of paying women differently because of their sex, this hurts families by denying them wages and holds back the economy. This bill will help put us back on the side of workers, consumers, and justice.”