Ex-Uber Employee Seeks to Open Closed Doors of Forced Arbitration

We’ve heard all too many stories since the emergence of the #MeToo movement about women who wanted to come forward with theirwhistleblower attorneys accounts of workplace sexual misconduct, but their companies had created loopholes that made it nearly impossible or too risky to go public. One former Uber employee is kicking down some of those barriers and working alongside the California Assembly to make it happen.

The former Uber engineer drew national attention when she previously wrote a blog post about alleged sexual harassment and questionable practices within the company, according to Tech Crunch. Her courage to speak up led to the resignation of Uber’s then CEO last summer. Now the ex-employee is supporting a bill that will help women in situations like hers to be able to seek public legal action. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher (D-San Diego) introduced AB-3080, a bill that addresses one of the major ways companies try to silence internal complaints: forced arbitration.

As our trusted whistleblower attorneys in Los Angeles can explain, forced arbitration is when, as a condition of employment, a company mandates that employees waive their right to sue. Instead, disputes involving the employer are handled through an arbitrator, who typically has been hired by the very company whose practices are in question. Non-disclosure agreements are generally required as well. It’s no wonder the conclusions to these cases are usually not very satisfying for the employee involved. Furthermore, even if the case at hand is handled to the satisfaction of the employee, by preventing the case from going public, other employees who are experiencing the same infractions might continue to suffer in silence, unaware that others within the company are sharing the same experiences.

When one starts a job, you’re usually hopeful and grateful for the opportunity. You are not thinking about the rights you might be signing away, and you certainly aren’t anticipating anything might happen to you that would cause you to need to exercise those rights. Or, like many Americans, you could just be too desperate for a decent job to care too much about all that at the time. All of these reasons are of course understandable and valid reasons why someone might get roped into an employment agreement that goes against their own interests. To coerce someone to sign away their rights and then later shrug off violations committed against them because of that contract is victim blaming pure and simple.

Retaliation is already illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, but forced arbitration is a gray area that companies have long been manipulating to prevent employees from having their case heard publicly. Without a fair and public trial, the employee is still very much at the mercy of their company. By preemptively establishing that employees will forgo rights should they lodge a complaint against the employer, it can be argued that the company is committing a form of retaliation regardless of the outcome of the internal investigation. AB-3080 would close this loophole and prohibit a forced arbitration agreement as a condition of employment.

Employers hope retaliation scare tactics will discourage brave employees from coming forward if they know doing so could cost them their career or at least destabilize what could be a very delicate financial situation. Most people cannot afford to be out of a job, even for a couple weeks, so they avoid the risk and suffer in a bad situation. The reason we see such retaliation tactics so frequently is that all too often, they work. That’s why our  attorneys are determined to stop retaliation in its tracks. Our team of lawyers is here to put your best interests first and protect you not only from the initial acts against you, but also any retaliatory violations.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Forced Arbitration, American Association for Justice

More Blog Entries:

EEOC Issues New Retaliation Guidance for Workers, Sept. 28, 2016, Los Angeles Employment Lawyers Blog