Google Scraps Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

 

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP February 22, 2019
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Google will no longer require workers to privately arbitrate employment-related claims instead of filing lawsuits in court, the company announced Feb. 21. Although federal law allows companies to require arbitration as a condition of employment, Google and other tech companies have faced significant pressure from employee advocates to abandon such policies.

Google said it will also end the practice for temporary and contract workers, as well as vendors, but the company won't require staffing agencies that provide contract workers to follow the new policy, according to The New York Times.

We've rounded up the latest news on this topic. Here are SHRM Online resources and news articles from other trusted media outlets.

Pressure from Worker Advocates

Employee advocates have been pressuring Google for months to stop forcing employees to arbitrate claims against the company. Google stopped requiring workers to arbitrate sexual harassment and assault claims in November after 20,000 employees walked out of work, protesting what they viewed as the company's lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct. Beginning on March 21, the company will stop enforcing arbitration agreements for all work-related disputes brought by current and future employees, but the policy won't apply to disputes with former employees.

(CNN)

More Companies Roll Back Arbitration Mandates

After Google scaled back its mandatory arbitration policy in November, Facebook, Airbnb and eBay followed suit by allowing employees to bring sexual misconduct and harassment claims in court. In response, Twitter announced that it never mandated arbitration. "Just to be clear, we don't force arbitration and never have," the company said. In November, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will still recommend that employees opt for arbitration but will leave the ultimate choice to employees.

(NBC News)

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Employer-Friendly Federal Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has generally sided with employers on the enforceability of arbitration agreements. In 2018, the high court upheld class-action waivers in arbitration agreements, allowing employers to stop workers from banding together to file claims for employment-related issues.

(SHRM Online)

Should Harassment Claims Be Arbitrated?

Proponents of mandatory arbitration say it's speedy, fair, inexpensive and less adversarial than litigation in court. Employers and workers may benefit from the fact that the filings and testimony in arbitration are not in the public record, though they are made public in court. However, litigating harassment claims in court may have advantages for employers. For example, courts may be more receptive than arbitrators to employer defenses in harassment claims, and not requiring harassment claims to be settled through arbitration avoids #MeToo objections to arbitration programs.

(SHRM Online

Consult State Laws on Arbitration

Although the Supreme Court has made clear that class-action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are enforceable, employers must be sure to carefully draft such agreements so they don't run afoul of state-law requirements. In California, for example, agreements can't limit the remedies that would otherwise be available to employees in court, and the employer must pay for any arbitration costs that go beyond what the employee would be expected to pay in court.

(SHRM Online)

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