A bill that would have outlawed California mandatory workplace arbitration agreements was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who signed a number of #metoo -inspired laws but soundly rejected this one. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, AB 3080 would have barred companies from mandating employees sign arbitration agreements – forgoing their right to judicial remedy in the event of a dispute – as a required condition of employment. Riverside sexual harassment lawyers at The Nassiri Law Group were skeptical of the bill’s chances, particularly given that Brown had vetoed a similar measure three years ago.
Although supporters of the measure aren’t wrong in noting that forced workplace arbitration agreements effectively silence workers who are legitimately victimized while shielding harassers and abusers, the unfortunate reality is that both the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have time and again ruled that employers can lawfully require employees to sign arbitration agreements in which they waive the right to take a claim for sexual harassment or other employee rights issue before a judge and jury.
The U.S. Supreme Court Bolstered Employer Protections Precluding AB 3080
One of the most recent of those cases weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court was Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, decided in May. The court was asked to interpret two federal laws – the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Federal Arbitration Act in 1925. Specifically, the latter contains a provision stating that any contract (employment or otherwise) that contains a provision requiring arbitration instead of litigation to resolve disputes is to be considered valid and enforceable unless there are legal or equity grounds on which to deem the contract invalid. The NLRA meanwhile allows workers the right to self-organize, form, join or assist in organized labor and to engage in collective bargaining.
So the question was whether a no-group arbitration clause, in violating portions of the NLRA, provides for legal grounds to prohibit employer-imposed mandatory arbitration agreements. Continue reading