What’s New In Washington: Senator Richard Blumenthal Introduces Two Anti-Forced Arbitration Bills

By NELA HQ posted 04-13-2017 04:32 PM

On March 15, 2017, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Mandatory Arbitration Transparency Act of 2017 (MATA, S. 647). Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are cosponsors. The introduction of MATA represents a new approach to limit the harmful effects suffered by workers who are forced to arbitrate workplace claims. The bill prohibits enforcement of any predispute forced arbitration provision that contains a “covered confidentiality clause,” defined as communications that would violate a state or federal whistleblower statute, those involving tortious or other unlawful conduct disputes, or issues of public policy or concern. MATA establishes an exception if either party can demonstrate a confidentiality interest that significantly outweighs the private and public interest in disclosure. Confidentiality clauses are typically included in forced arbitration provisions and serve to shield employers from accountability by keeping workplace violations, including widespread misconduct by an employer, secret from the public and from other employees who might seek redress for similar grievances.

Senator Blumenthal also reintroduced the Justice for Servicemembers and Veterans Act of 2017 (JSVA, S. 646). Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken, Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Sheldon Whitehouse are cosponsors. The JSVA amends the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by restoring longstanding protections that have been undermined by recent federal court decisions upholding forced arbitration of USERRA claims. The JSVA clarifies that servicemembers and veterans cannot be forced to arbitrate USERRA disputes unless “all parties consent to arbitration after a complaint on the specific claim has been filed in court or with the Merit Systems Protection Board and all parties knowingly and voluntarily consent to have that particular claim subjected to arbitration.” It is essential for servicemembers and veterans to be assured that they can serve in the military and return to their jobs, and that any USERRA violation can be enforced in a court of law.

For more information on NELA's efforts to end forced arbitration in the workplace, visit www.nela.org/forcedarbitration.