FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2016
Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Kinney, Alliance for Justice, email@example.com
Christine Hines, National Association of Consumer Advocates, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Jones, American Association for Justice, email@example.com
Fair Arbitration Now Coalition Applauds Obama Administration for Restoring Rights of Government Contract Employees
Department of Labor, Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council release final regulations and guidance implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which prevents certain federal government contractors from forcing their employees into arbitration
Washington, DC (August 24, 2016) – The Fair Arbitration Now coalition applauds the Obama Administration for today’s announcement of the final regulations and guidance implementing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which will ensure that many corporations that accept taxpayer-funded government contracts cannot prevent employees from holding them accountable in court to answer for allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.
The Executive Order, signed by President Barack Obama in July 2014, prohibits federal government contractors with contracts of $1 million or more from requiring employees to have legal disputes decided in forced arbitration if the dispute arises under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or involves claims for sexual assault or sexual harassment.
For a number of years now, and with the blessing of a slim majority of the Supreme Court, corporations have been inserting forced arbitration clauses into the fine print of often non-negotiable contracts to strip workers of the right to hold them accountable in court if the company discriminates against them, violates equal pay laws, cheats them out of wages, or subjects them to unsafe working conditions. Forced arbitration does not provide important procedural guarantees of fairness and due process that are the hallmarks of courts of law.
Additionally, forced arbitration is a completely secretive process where the public, the media, and government entities cannot uncover information about outcomes or the arbitrator’s reasoning when reaching a decision.
“We applaud the Obama Administration for following through on this critically important Executive Order,” said Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The issuance of these final regulations by the administration helps ensure that government contractors who receive significant taxpayer dollars cannot defy our nation’s anti-discrimination laws by hiding behind forced arbitration clauses.”
“We applaud the Department of Labor for its leadership in extending important protections to the employees of federal contractors,” said Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice. “It is unconscionable that companies seeking to do business with our federal government would deny employees their right to a day in court when pursuing civil rights and sexual harassment claims. Our government sets an example for private industry by banning forced arbitration in these cases. This action comes at the same time that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is weighing a rule to protect consumers from class action bans in forced arbitration clauses imposed by banks and other lenders. Forced arbitration is an unfair system that has been imposed on consumers and workers for far too long, and we are glad to see signs that the tide is turning against this practice.“
“In all instances, consumers and workers should retain their legal right to seek accountability in court when harmed by unfair or illegal corporate practices,” said Christine Hines, Legislative Director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “By restricting forced arbitration, the Obama Administration has taken a huge step forward for ordinary Americans by ensuring that employees of government contractors can seek justice in many cases when they’re wronged.”
“The American Association for Justice applauds this bold move to strengthen civil rights laws and ensure accountability for survivors of sexual assault and harassment,” said Julie Braman Kane, President of the American Association for Justice. “Corporations accepting taxpayer dollars will now have to play by the rules. We look forward to the full implementation of this important law.”