Six Google employees have joined US lawmakers to support bills that would ban mandatory arbitration in employment and consumer contracts. The workers are seeking to get the Alphabet Inc company to drop some arbitration provisions.
Avoiding public scrutiny
A major target for workers’ rights activists in recent years, mandatory arbitration is seen as a way for businesses facing harassment and discrimination allegations to avoid public scrutiny. Tanuja Gupta, a New York-based Google employee, said ‘we cannot have an honest conversation about labour rights or restoring consumer protections until we pull back the curtain of forced arbitration, which denies employees and consumers of their ability to fully and publicly vindicate their rights.’ Thousands of Google workers briefly walked off the job in November as part of a demonstration organized by Ms Gupta and others to advocate for workplace policy changes, including on arbitration. Business groups and lobbyists argue arbitration provides timely resolutions and that lawsuits benefit lawyers more than plaintiffs. However, last week Google became the latest tech company to announce it would no longer require employees to arbitrate employment disputes.
‘Day in court’
The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act and several pieces of related legislation would ensure individual and class-action lawsuits are an option in a variety of disputes, members of Congress said at a news conference. Democratic lawmakers want to curtail mandatory arbitration before but have hitherto failed to gain support from Republican colleagues. However, Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal said he expects the FAIR Act to at least pass the Democrat-controlled House this year. He said, ‘this bill is about guaranteeing every individual their day in court.’