NELP Commends Washington Governor Inslee’s Executive Order Restoring Workers’ Right to Their Day in Court

Following is a statement by Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project:

“Today, Governor Jay Inslee took an important step to restore workers’ rights to bring claims for workplace justice in a court of law, issuing an executive order establishing that the state will contract with companies that do not force their employees to waive their rights to go to court as a condition of getting or keeping a job.

“America’s workers have long understood that when their bosses break the law – whether it’s wage theft, discrimination, or sexual harassment – workers have the right to pursue justice in the courts. But that right was gutted two weeks ago, when a divided U.S. Supreme Court, in Epic Systems v. Lewis, ruled that employers can force workers with whom they have a dispute into private, one-on-one arbitration instead.

“The #MeToo movement has shown how crucial it is for workers to be able to voice their concerns together – and how harmful forced arbitration is to women fighting sexual harassment and to anyone challenging workplace misconduct. Forced arbitration means workers have to pursue their claims before a private arbitrator hired by the company, often alone, with a low likelihood of success and little chance to appeal.

“Companies that use forced arbitration and ‘class waiver’ clauses know that individual workers face enormous barriers if they have to bring their claims alone. Very few workers are willing to take on their employer by themselves and risk termination or abuse.

“Currently, an estimated 60.1 million workers in America – 56 percent of private-sector nonunion employees – are subject to forced arbitration clauses. We expect those numbers to increase after the Supreme Court’s decision; forced arbitration may become standard employer practice.

“Governor Inslee’s Order is a key counterweight to the Supreme Court’s decision, and to the decidedly anti-worker policies of the Trump administration, which switched sides to support the corporations in the Epic Systems case, after the Obama administration had previously sided with the workers.

“Forced arbitration takes away people’s right to have their day in court. Wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-harassment laws, and more – these protections are of little use if workers can’t enforce them. Governor Inslee’s action today is an important step towards protecting these rights, and other states should follow his lead.”


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