Cicilline Announces Legislative Package to Open Courthouse Door for Consumers, Workers, Veterans

Thursday, February 28, 2019

WASHINGTON – Speaking at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol today, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) Chair David N. Cicilline announced a new legislative package to stop the use of forced arbitration clauses that are used by corporations to deny justice in consumer, civil rights, employment, and antitrust disputes.


“Forced arbitration clauses are a major problem. Every single day, working men and women are denied justice because of clauses that corporations hide in the fine print of mandatory contracts,” said Cicilline. “This is an issue that hurts consumers, sexual harassment victims, and veterans. We can do better. I’m proud to help lead this effort today.”


The legislative package introduced today includes Cicilline’s Justice for Servicemembers Act, a bill that prohibits employers from firing military men and women because they are on active duty. Under the Uniformed Services Employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) and the Service Member Civil Relief Act (SCRA), veterans and active-duty servicemembers are protected from discrimination based on their military service and given the right to return to their civilian jobs once their service ends.


In recent years, however, Federal courts have allowed employers to require servicemembers and veterans to sign mandatory arbitration agreements that prohibit them from going to court to resolve an employment dispute. Under mandatory arbitration agreements, companies can choose the arbiter and venue for a hearing while denying an employee any right to appeal.


“The men and women who serve our country deploy to protect our freedoms,” said Kasim J. Yarn, Rhode Island’s Director of Veterans Affairs. “We need to have their backs when they get home. I applaud Congressman Cicilline’s efforts to protect their day in court so they can enforce their employment rights when needed.”


In addition, Cicilline is co-sponsoring the Forced-Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which will end the use of forced arbitration in other consumer, civil rights, employment, and antitrust disputes, as well as:


  • The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act to end the use of forced arbitration in disputes involving sexual harassment or discrimination;
  • The Restoring Justice for Workers Act 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.
  • And The Fairness in Long-Term Care Arbitration ensure 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. 


Cicilline was joined at Thursday’s press conference 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 through the courts.


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