Mandatory Arbitration

08 Oct #MeToo inspired sexual harassment bills await signature

Three #MeToo inspired sexual harassment bills await the governor's signature. The legislature passed each of the three bills partly in response to the #MeToo movement, which has grown in response to sexual harassment in the workplace. As part of the movement, #MeToo advocates have called for updates to California's sexual harassment laws. While the bills all aim to deter sexual harassment, they each address distinct issues. AB 9, inspired by #MeToo criticisms, would extend the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims AB 9 would extend the time victims of sexual harassment have to file claims under state law. Currently, sexual harassment victims generally have only one year to take action. AB 9 would change the statute of limitations for sexual harassment to three years. Employment lawyers and supporters of the #MeToo movement have criticized the short statute of limitations California has for sexual harassment claims. They argue many sexual harassment victims don't immediately recognize they've experienced legally actionable sexual harassment. By the time they do, it may be too late to take action. Meanwhile, critics of AB 9 argue that it will increase employers' liability. Undoubtedly, this would be a major change to state employment law. But until the bill goes into effect, nobody can say for sure how much real world impact the change would have. AB 51 seeks to protect sexual harassment victims' right to sue in court AB 51 would prohibit employers from enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses against victims of sexual harassment. Employers are increasingly using mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts with employees. Arbitration is essentially a private court system. Arbitration generally has similar procedures as court, but there are some important differences. These differences, tend to advantage employers. Moreover, it's very rare that a court will decline to enforce an arbitration agreement. Unsurprisingly, many #MeToo advocates have been critical of arbitration agreements, arguing they take rights away from sexual harassment victims. Moreover, because arbitration is private, it allows employers to sweep sexual harassment lawsuits under the rug. AB 51 would make it harder for employers to enforce such agreements against victims of sexual harassment. Advocates hope the legislation would help victims fight back more effectively against sexual harassment at work. Even if passed, however, it's possible that AB 51 would conflict with federal law regarding arbitration agreements. Where state and federal law directly conflict, federal law prevails. Therefore, it's possible AB 51 would have little or no impact on sexual harassment lawsuits. If AB 51 does become law, courts will have to work this out. AB 749 would prohibit employers from including "no rehire" clauses in sexual harassment settlements AB 749 prohibits employers from including "no rehire" clauses in settlement agreements with sexual harassment victims. These clauses give employers the right to refuse to hire or employ the victim in the future. #MeToo advocates argue this is a form of retaliation against employees who file sexual harassment lawsuits. By prohibiting such clauses, the legislature sought to ensure that victims can move on without sacrificing future opportunities. #MeToo advocates hope governor will sign the sexual harassment bills As of now, these three #MeToo inspired sexual harassment bills are not law. They will only become law with the governor's signature. The governor has until October 13, 2019 to sign them. Activists in the growing anti-sexual harassment movement are hoping the governor will sign them before the upcoming deadline. If the governor does not sign one or more of the bills, don't expect that to be the end of the line. This is only the beginning of what will likely to be a long effort to reshape California's civil rights laws to combat sexual harassment. If you believe you have been a victim of sexual harassment, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation. For updates on these bills and more, follow us on Twitter....

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28 Feb Employment Disputes and Enforcement of a Mandatory Arbitration Clause

There are some exceptions to what can be forced into arbitration. One exception for now is representative actions under the Private Attorney’s General Act or PAGA. PAGA is a California law that basically deputizes individuals to seek penalties against employers that violate the California labor code. There are a few other minor exceptions, all within the State context. It is a little more complicated in the Federal context due to certain executive actions by the President. But, in the context of the state of California, it depends on what the arbitration agreement says. Most arbitration agreements are so broad that they include almost any kind of claim that can be forced into arbitration, and it doesn’t matter how egregious the conduct of the employer is; if there is an agreement between the employer and employee to arbitrate that type of claim, and there almost always is, then it can still be forced into arbitration. In that scenario, there is no way to get out of the arbitration agreement unless there is actually something unconscionable with the arbitration agreement itself. In terms of the types of claims or how egregious the claims are, it doesn’t really have an impact upon whether or not an employee will be forced to enter arbitration. If you are presented with an arbitration agreement by your employer, or if you have already signed an arbitration agreement and have a legal claim against your employer, contact an employment lawyer today at the Khadder Law Firm for a free initial consultation....

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24 Feb Mandatory Arbitration Clauses and Employment Disputes

Mandatory arbitration clauses, especially since 2011, have become more and more common in the employment context. I’ve talked about this in some of my other blog posts about how much I disdain mandatory arbitration clauses and unfortunately, there are many problems with mandatory arbitration, especially in the employment context. The biggest issue among many is that employers with arbitration clauses will probably have to participate in multiple arbitrations, and the arbitrators are essentially private judges. There is the potential for the arbitrators to rule in favor of the employer in order to get repeat business (called “the repeat player effect”). Individual employees typically don’t have to go to arbitration more than once in their lifetime, if ever, so there is no potential incentive for an arbitrator to rule in an employee’s favor. Another problem with mandatory arbitration, is that it could, but not necessarily will, have an effect on the value of the case. If an employee is presented with an arbitration agreement, they should think long and hard, and even think about talking to a lawyer before signing it. Not all employers, however, will give you the option of signing it or not signing it. Some do, but a lot of them don’t. Everyone should keep in mind that if they sign an arbitration agreement, they are most likely going to be forced to go to arbitration as opposed to having their day in court in front of a jury. That can affect the value of their case. If you don’t have a choice in the matter, you can either agree to the arbitration agreements, or you will have to find another job. That is not an easy decision for most people to make, but, unfortunately, it is becoming more and more commonplace. One mitigating factor about arbitration in the employment context is that if the employer requires the employee to go to arbitration, the employer has to pay for the arbitrator fees. The employee only has to pay for what they would normally pay if they were in a regular court of law. Frankly, the arbitrator fees can cost far more than any cost associated with filing a case in a court of law. So, sometimes employers will decide that they don’t want to enforce the arbitration agreement because it would cost a lot of money. That’s one advantage that an employee who is forced to sign an arbitration agreement may have in their back pocket. Arbitration agreements have to follow certain procedural and substantive requirements. If the agreements are procedurally or substantively unconscionable to a certain extent, then a court may decide that the arbitration agreement is not enforceable. If an employee has a legal claim against their employer, and there is an arbitration agreement, it would be very important to speak with an employment attorney to evaluate whether the arbitration agreement could be found unenforceable in court so that the employee can have the chance to bring their claims to a jury of their peers as opposed to a private judge. If you are presented with an arbitration agreement by your employer, or if you have already signed an arbitration agreement and have a legal claim against your employer, contact an employment lawyer today at the Khadder Law Firm for a free initial consultation....

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