Forced Arbitration Means Workers Won’t Get Their Way
Most people understand that starting a new job comes with some risk, but few expect their new employer to sneak past you a document that removes your employee rights during orientation. The average new employee would be reluctant to demand anyone sign a document such as this, but without realizing it, many are signing forced arbitration agreements, something that does indeed take away their rights.
This practice is increasing in popularity, especially in California. The majority of workers throughout the state earn less than $15 per hour and have no guarantee their work will remain in place. Because of their status as employees at-will, they can leave or be terminated from their job without any reason. Much of California’s job market is also made up of people who do not speak English very well, making it tough for them to understand when someone is trying to take advantage.
And take advantage of them is what their employers do. There are numerous instances of sexual harassment, wage theft, and substandard working conditions throughout the labor force. And because of the forced arbitration documents signed by workers, their hands are practically tied when it comes to taking a stand.
It’s true – arbitration can be extremely effective for resolving legal agreements, but rarely is that the case when it is forced on either party, especially when one of those parties agreed to it without really understanding it.
Forced arbitration agreements are increasing in popularity. Only about 15% of new employees signed them in 2012. Within two years, that number had increased to nearly half. A bill has been introduced in California that would make it illegal for employers to force arbitration agreements on new employees, but only time will tell if the efforts are successful.