Overruled


Preventing The Next Lilly Ledbetter
February 10, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: ,

I’ve blogged before about how companies trap or trick their customers and employees into signing away their power to hold the company accountable if it breaks the law.  Because of a series of wrongful-decided Supreme Court decisions that rewrote a 60 year-old law in the 1980s, companies can refuse to do business with you, and your employer can fire you, unless you agree to replace your right to go to court with a biased, privatized justice system.

Writing in The Nation, Kia Franklin of Tort Deform warns that if Congress does not overturn these wrongly-decided cases, then women like Lilly Ledbetter will still have no way to fight back against discrimination in the workplace:

Despite the new Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, corporations can still get away with employment discrimination and other harmful action through binding mandatory arbitration agreements in which Americans sign away their right to resolve disputes in a court of law. Nestling arbitration clauses in the fine print of credit card agreements, patient consent forms and employment contracts is a deceitful tactic used against an estimated 30 million Americans nationwide. It sends disputes between a person and a corporation to a closed-door, unregulated resolution process hidden from outside view.

Congress and President Obama should provide a much stronger check against corporate power. They can do that by passing The Arbitration Fairness Act (AFA), first introduced in 2007 by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA).

Arbitration does not grant the three main safeguards guaranteed by our public courts: fairness, accountability and neutrality. The corporation chooses a private individual–who is not necessarily a judge or lawyer–to hear and decide the case. Corporations are repeat customers whose appeasement generates steady business. Studies show that arbitrators have financial reason to rule in their favor. Corporate clients get preferential treatment; regular people do not get anything resembling neutral decision-making.

Kia is right.  If I break the law, I suffer a consequence.  Corporations shouldn’t be any different.

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