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Sen. Franken Leads Charge to Protect Legal Right to Day in Court

Senator Reintroduces Legislation to Restore Consumers, Workers, and Small Businesses’ Right to Seek Justice through Courts

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reintroduced legislation that would restore consumers, workers, and small businesses' right to seek justice through the courts. The Arbitration Fairness Act would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, civil rights and antitrust cases, and would protect the right of consumers, workers, and small businesses to have their case heard in court.

"Mandatory arbitration can be a huge disadvantage to consumers, workers, and small businesses, often limiting their ability to have any meaningful legal recourse when they are wronged," said Sen. Franken. "I've reintroduced the Arbitration Fairness Act to ensure that people and small businesses maintain their right to their day in court when they are cheated."

"Forced arbitration clauses undermine our indelible Constitutional right to take our disputes to court," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who introduced the companion bill in the House. "They benefit powerful business interests at the expense of American consumers and workers. These bills are designed to defend our rights and to re-empower consumers."

In 1925, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The legislative history of the FAA makes clear that Congress intended to target commercial arbitration agreements between two companies of generally comparable bargaining power. However over the years, the Supreme Court has slowly broadened the reach of the FAA, ignoring evidence that the FAA was never intended to apply to consumer or employment disputes, or to supersede all other federal laws protecting consumers, workers, and small businesses.

What the Arbitration Fairness Act does:

  • Restores the original intent of the FAA by clarifying the scope of its application. 
  • Amends the FAA by adding a new chapter invalidating agreements that require the arbitration of employment, consumer, civil rights, or antitrust disputes made before the dispute arises. 
  • Restores the rights of workers, consumers, and small businesses trying to compete to seek justice in our courts. 
  • Ensures transparency in civil litigation. 
  • Protects the integrity of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others.

 

The Arbitration Fairness Act was cosponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), Maize Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) For more information on the Arbitration Fairness Act click here.

A longtime advocate for consumers and workers in cases of forced arbitration, Sen. Franken originally introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act in 2011. Sen. Franken recently wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking it to prevent Wall Street brokerage firms from forcing investors into unfair arbitration agreements. Sen. Franken has previously introduced legislation to ban mandatory arbitration clauses in cell phone and mobile data service contracts and in college enrollment contracts.

 

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