Forced Arbitration – The Stealth War on Women’s Rights

March 19, 2014

While working for defunct retailer Circuit City, Tia Holloman was subjected to two months of appalling sexual harassment that included her supervisor exposing his genitals to her, grabbing her and parading her around the store when she tried to escape his abuse — an event that was recorded by the store’s surveillance camera. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in Tia’s favor, but despite a mountain of evidence against Circuit City and her supervisor, Tia’s sexual harassment case was thrown out of court because of a pervasive injustice lurking in her employment agreement – a forced arbitration clause.

Tia should have been protected by laws prohibiting sexual harassment, most notably Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but Circuit City evaded this landmark law through the abusive practice of forced arbitration. These clauses, buried in the fine print of everything from employee handbooks and loan applications to website terms of service and even school field trip permission slips, eliminate access to the courts where women can assert their rights and replaces our civil justice system with Big Businesses’ own dispute mill.

Tia, like most Americans, didn’t even know forced arbitration exists, but it is among the biggest threats to women’s rights in the workplace, the classroom and their communities.

This March as we honor the character, courage and commitment of advocates who fought to pass landmark laws advancing women’s rights, we must take up the fight to preserve their legacy by revoking corporations’ license to violate these laws through forced arbitration.

By eliminating a woman’s right to enforce these laws in court, forced arbitration undermines Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts, the Equal Pay Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act—all of which were fought for and won by courageous advocates whose legacy must be preserved.

Without immediate Congressional action to end forced arbitration, corporations will continue to single-handedly eliminate women’s access to justice and render these essential laws meaningless and unenforceable.

Please encourage the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to preserve these laws by co-sponsoring the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 (AFA) [S.878 / H.R.1844] and stopping forced arbitration.

The AFA would eliminate forced arbitration in employment, consumer, civil rights, and anti-trust cases, thereby restoring fundamental rights created by state and federal laws that are currently at risk of being wiped out by this abusive practice.

Women have come too far to be forced to back by the injustice buried in the fine print.

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