Google Employees Fight Forced Arbitration Agreements


Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek January 15, 2019
Google Employees Fight Forced Arbitration Agreements

Google employees took to Instagram and Twitter on Tuesday to pressure companies in the tech industry to stop using forced arbitration. Such agreements are not uncommon among employers in general and apply to claims of harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment and assault and racial or religious discrimination.

The social media campaign is the latest effort by Google employees, a group calling itself the Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration, to advocate for what they see as fairer employer practices and an end to disparity. In November, Google employees around the world walked off the job for a day to demand a stop what they saw as the company's lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. Ending forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination was among that group's demands.

A week after the walkout, Google vowed to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual harassment cases. It said it will no longer require mandatory arbitration of sexual misconduct allegations and will provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports. 

SHRM Online collected the following articles from its archives and other news outlets on the subject of forced arbitration agreements. 

Google Employees Launch Social Media Blitz to Pressure Tech Giants on Workplace Harassment Issues

The campaign aims to highlight the problems with companies using forced arbitration agreements, a common clause in employment contracts that stipulates that workers must resolve their disputes with employers in arbitration rather than in court. 


Should Harassment Claims Be Subject to Arbitration?

Following the Supreme Court's decision approving arbitration agreements that waive employees' right to join a class action, employers are creating more arbitration programs. But is arbitration of harassment claims the best choice? Yes, say some employment law attorneys, who note that arbitration can be a good forum for harassment claims. But Noah Finkel, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw and co-counsel for victorious Epic Systems in the Supreme Court decision, says no. 

(SHRM Online

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Equal Employment Opportunity]

Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration Launch Public Education Campaign Via Social Media

Employers use mandatory arbitration agreements to suppress workers facing harassment and discrimination, say a group of Google employees advocating for an end to this practice.

"Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace," Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration wrote in a blog post. "In the last month, we've heard from fellow tech workers, academic institutions, labor attorneys, advocacy groups and legislators around the nation about their fights to end forced arbitration as well."


There's a Good Chance You've Waived the Right to Sue Your Boss

Millions of American workers can't sue their employer because these employees signed mandatory arbitration agreements that are the new normal in American workplaces. These agreements are often buried in a stack of hiring documents that managers require new employees to sign. They usually have a legalese name, such as "Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement."


Arbitration Comes With Certain Benefits

Arbitration programs nevertheless can benefit employees as well as employers. One benefit can be confidentiality, if the employee doesn't want details of the case to become public. Plus, if an arbitration program includes mediation, an employee may be able to raise any concerns, even if there's no legal basis for them, and have them resolved to the employee's and the employer's satisfaction. Employees generally keep in arbitration the same rights and available remedies that they have in court.

(SHRM Online)

Employee Didn't Agree to Arbitration Provision in Company Handbook

A former health care clinic employee, alleging that he was fired for protesting the company's discriminatory practices when hiring a human resources manager, had not agreed to mandatory arbitration over employment disputes, a California appeals court ruled.

The employee had signed a form acknowledging that he understood the employment policies outlined in the handbook, but that form did not mention arbitration, the court noted.

(SHRM Online

Gretchen Carlson: How Forced Arbitration Allows Companies to Protect Harassers

When victims of sexual harassment in the workplace gather the courage to come forward, many learn they are legally forbidden to sue their employer.

Mandatory arbitration clauses mean that many—if not most—cases of sexual harassment are dealt with behind closed doors. Instead of making their way to court, they are settled by arbitrators, independent professionals who are selected to resolve disputes. It's estimated that more than 60 million Americans have signed such arbitration clauses. 


The Widespread Use of Workplace Arbitration Among America's Top 100 Companies

The report examines the use of arbitration agreements in the workplace by the top 100 largest domestic United States companies, as ranked by Fortune magazine. These companies are the most successful, powerful companies in America, with combined annual revenues totaling over $7.6 trillion, according to Fortune.

(The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law and Policy)


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