Arbitration to be Voluntary under Proposed Legislation


On February 12, 2009 Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced the bipartisan Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009. That Act is meant to safeguard citizens from being forced into entering arbitration and would make entering arbitration possible only after the dispute has arisen as to protect consumers from corporations.

Mandatory binding arbitration clauses are hidden in the fine print of everything from cell phone, credit cards, franchise and employment agreements to nursing home care contracts. These clauses force consumers or employees to give up their right to take their case to court in the event there is a dispute with the corporation.

"The Arbitration Fairness Act will prevent negligent corporations from stacking the deck against consumers who unknowingly sign away their access to justice," said American Association for Justice President Les Weisbrod. "Arbitration can only be an effective means to resolve disputes when both parties agree voluntarily, not when it is forced upon consumers in secret to limit their rights."

The Arbitration Fairness Act will help people like Jamie Leigh Jones, who was raped, drugged, beaten, and then confined to a shipping container by KBR/Halliburton employees while working in Iraq. Because of a clause placed in her employment contract, KBR tried to force Ms. Jones to submit to a binding, secret, non-appealable arbitration. Ms. Jones had to fight to obtain access to the justice system because she unknowingly signed an arbitration clause as part of her 18-page employment contract.

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