Employees had a victory this week over employers who are forcing employees to give up their 7thAmendment right to a jury trial. Many employers are requiring employees to give up this Constitutional right, just to be able to have a job, and requiring arbitrators – lawyers paid by the company – to decide employee's cases against their employers. Congress has stalled on giving people back their rights to have their cases heard by a jury of their peers, and the Supreme Court continues to allow employers the right to strip employees of this important right.
But, last Thursday, President Obama signed theFair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, an important step forward in our efforts to outlaw forced arbitration of employment disputes. The Executive Order requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and provides federal agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. Significantly, the Executive Order extends the Franken Amendment beyond defense contractors to companies with federal contracts of $1 million or more and prohibits them from forcing their employees to arbitrate disputes arising out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and torts related to sexual assault or harassment. The Franken Amendment, first enacted in 2009, bans certain defense contractors from forcing their employees to arbitrate the same types of claims. The White House fact sheet on the Executive Order can be found here.