On May 16, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law held the first hearing titled "Justice Denied: Forced Arbitration and the Erosion of Our Legal System" concerning the Restoring Justice for Workers Act (H.R.7109). The bill, introduced on May 15, 2019, would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's May 2018 decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis which permitted employers to require workers to sign arbitration agreements that contain class action waiver clauses as a condition of their employment. If passed, the Restoring Justice for Workers Act would prohibit employers from requiring workers to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment or asking them to waive their ability to bring class-action claims. In arbitration agreements, employees agree to work out claims against their employers in arbitration proceedings, as opposed to in court. The bill currently has about four dozen sponsors in the House and a companion bill in the Senate has 18 sponsors. Members of the Subcommittee said at the hearing that while arbitration was originally designed for disputes between businesses with equal bargaining power, it has, in recent decades, been unfairly forced upon workers who see few benefits from the process, and which may have the effect of deterring employees from bringing claims at all. Opponents of the bill contend that many employees prefer arbitration to court because it is faster, cheaper, and promises a higher payout than class-action litigation and argue that companies create arbitration programs to encourage workers or consumers to bring small claims, rather than to prevent them. The bill is still in the beginning stages and will have to go through the committee process to determine whether the House or Senate will consider passage.
Jennifer Hutchins is an attorney in the Firm’s Labor and Employment & Business Litigation Practice Groups. If you have any questions or concerns about this issue or any other matter, please contact Jennifer directly at 813-223-1099.