Forced Arbitration Laws on Consumers
Written by James P. Nevin
The beauty of the justice system is that the little guy can take on the corporation, it's part of the American dream. Companies have caught on to this and stolen that right from under you. Forced arbitration clauses are bad news for consumers, patients and employees. Businesses are forcing people into arbitration and stealing their right to justice. Though arbitration sounds like a benign, safe environment to settle disputes, it can actually be a severely biased process where you almost never win, and from which you may never escape.
If you have a credit card, checking account, cell phone, cable, internet, computer, health care, home, student loan or Starbucks card you have agreed to give up your rights. Millions of people have had their constitutional protections stripped by boilerplate fine print slipped into every imaginable contract. Americans don't realize that forced arbitration clauses cover all types of harm - fraud, abuse, discrimination - and typically cannot be challenged. The most horrific part, most individuals won't realize just how severe these clauses are until they are unable to hold anyone accountable when they suffer harm due to someone else's misconduct.
Even those who refuse to sign forced arbitration clauses are sometimes held to theconditions irregardless. Fonza Luke, a nurse for more than 25 years at Princeton Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to sign an arbitration agreement, but she continued to work for the hospital for three more years. When Luke was fired - for missing a day of work to attend a continuing education class - she found her employment discrimination complaint barred. The hospital successfully argued that simply by continuing to show up for work, she had essentially "agreed" to the forced arbitration clause. Luke lost her case in arbitration as well.
Defenders of arbitration claim it is more efficient and less costly than the civil justice system. Without trials, the public record of these corporate abuses on individuals go unchecked. When no one is accountable, no one is safe. The only respite from the forced arbitration bullying lies with Congress and federal agencies. Without Congressional action people will continue to be pushed around by big business and the arbitrators on their side.