Today President Obama signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. “The Executive Order directs companies with federal contracts of $1 million or more not to require their employees to enter into predispute arbitration agreements for disputes arising out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or from torts related to sexual assault or harassment (except when valid contracts already exist). This builds on a policy already passed by Congress and successfully implemented at the Department of Defense, the largest federal contracting agency, and will help improve contractors’ compliance with labor laws.”
The Fair Arbitration Now coalition applauded the president’s move, and also called for Congress and the federal agencies to protect workers and consumers from forced arbitration prevalent in many other sectors. Here are some reactions:
Public Justice: “This news is incredibly important – it is the single most important action strengthening the enforcement of the civil rights laws in decades. Every substantial civil rights organization in the United States has long pointed out how unfair forced arbitration clauses are for workers.” Read more.
National Association of Consumer Advocates: “We call on members of Congress to pick up where the White House has left off. The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 (AFA) [S.878 /H.R.1844], would prevent the enforcement of forced arbitration clauses in all civil rights, employment, antitrust, and consumer disputes. The legislation would only prohibit forced arbitration not voluntary arbitration that occurs after a dispute arises.” Read more.
American Association for Justice: “This executive order is a tremendous victory for all employees of big corporations that do business with the government. Now workers will be able to enforce their rights to be employed in a workplace free from discrimination.” Read more.
Public Citizen: “The executive order signed today not only provides critical benefits to federal contractor employees but also is an important acknowledgment by the president that access to justice is a fundamental American right that should not be discarded in the fine print of contracts.” Read more.
Consumer Action: “Forced arbitration clauses have already been banned in consumer mortgage and home equity loan contracts. Consumer Action is pleased that the President has taken a step forward in the fight to give all citizens fair and equal access to our court system.” Read more.
Alliance for Justice: “We thank the president for recognizing the urgency of this issue and using his executive power to protect the rights of workers at companies doing business with the government, and we urge Congress to follow suit by passing the Arbitration Fairness Act to protect all workers and consumers.” Read more.
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care: “The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will bar certain government contractors from mandating employees into forced arbitration over sexual harassment and civil rights claims. It is an encouraging development that highlights the need to ban the use of such clauses in all legally binding contracts, particularly in consumer contracts that individuals and their loved ones are generally required to sign upon admission to nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other long-term care settings.” Read more.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “Forced arbitration makes the dozens of antidiscrimination laws meaningless because they are unenforceable in court, allowing employers the freedom to circumvent civil rights laws intended to protect people from employment discrimination on the basis of age, sex, religion, race, and disability. We applaud President Obama for issuing this executive order. Because of it, millions of hardworking Americans will be treated with greater dignity and respect in their workplaces.” Read more.
The Pop Tort: “Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) championed those protections, as we’ve noted before. This is a great step forward in what we hope will ultimately be a new federal law to ban these forced arbitration clauses altogether.” Read more.