A California law that prohibits employers from forcing workers to resolve major workplace disputes in private arbitration is a violation of federal statute – according to a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The 2-1 ruling addresses conflict over California’s AB51, which criminalizes the act of an employer forcing an employee to sign an arbitration agreement that would compel them to resolve serious job conflicts before a private arbiter rather than in court.
As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, this outcome is considered a big win for employers and big businesses – and a serious blow to the average worker.
These so-called “mandatory arbitration agreements” require workers to settle their complaints about things like sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in a closed-door, private session – with an arbitration company paid by the employer – rather than in an open, public court proceeding. Arbitrators don’t even necessarily have to follow the law or due process, the way courts are bound. Such agreements had become extremely common in California and throughout the country in recent years, with many companies forcing workers to sign them as a condition of employment.
Those who support mandatory arbitration to resolve workplace disputes say it’s faster and cheaper than court, and makes the most sense when trying to settle routine points of contention. However, labor advocates say such agreements help to hide systemic abuses and discrimination. Arbitration agreements were shown to be particularly problematic in the midst of the #MeToo movement because workers weren’t able to identify their unfair or unlawful treatment as part of a bigger problem as opposed to an isolated incident that impacted only them.
AB51, which went into effect in 2019, attempted to address these concerns. It was passed along with a clutch of several other bills intended to protect workers from sexual harassment, unlawful wage gaps, and inadequate workplace health and safety protections. Continue Reading ›