12.18.19

Murray: Civil Rights Agency Must Support Workers’ Right to Take Predatory Corporations to Court for Employment Discrimination

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rescinds long-standing policy opposing mandatory arbitration agreements as contrary to civil rights laws and harmful to workers across the country

 

Murray: “The last thing an agency tasked with enforcing workers’ rights should do is weaken its stance on predatory corporate practices that block workers from seeking justice when they’re mistreated or harassed on the job.”

 

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, criticized the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on its decision to rescind the Commission’s longstanding policy opposing mandatory arbitration clauses because they are inconsistent with civil rights laws and systematically disadvantage workers. EEOC, the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination, has held for over two decades that mandatory arbitration agreements “harm both the individual civil rights claimant and the public interest in eradicating discrimination.” The decision to rescind this policy is a giant step backwards and sends a chilling message to workers across the country subject to workplace harassment.

 

“The last thing an agency tasked with enforcing workers’ rights should do is weaken its stance on predatory corporate practices that block workers from seeking justice when they’re mistreated or harassed on the job. Arbitration agreements allow predatory corporations to sidestep the judicial process and take advantage of hardworking people—often times, without them even knowing they’ve signed away their rights,” said Senator Murray. “The EEOC should reverse course and reaffirm its longstanding position that preventing workers from exercising their rights in court runs directly counter to our laws against workplace discrimination.”

 

Arbitration clauses, which employers are increasingly using as a condition of employment, force employees to give up their right to pursue workers’ rights claims in court and, instead, resolve any disputes through binding arbitration. These arbitration clauses—which are often hidden in employment contracts—prevent workers from pursing justice through the legal system. The use of forced arbitration clauses not only blocks the rights of individual workers, but leads to widespread non-enforcement of workers’ rights and is particularly problematic in sexual harassment cases where secrecy allows perpetrators to continue to victimize workers.

 

Senator Murray has long been a champion of protecting workers’ rights. Following the 2018 Supreme Court decision, Epic Systems v. Lewis, which allowed employers to continue to require workers to sign forced arbitration clauses, Senator Murray introduced the Restoring Justice for Workers Act, legislation to end forced arbitration clauses and protect workers’ ability to pursue work-related claims in court.

 

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