A bill on California Governor Jerry Brown’s desk would clarify that arbitration agreements are voluntary between companies and their workers -- and not a condition of getting hired.
Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, who represents parts of Los Angeles County, is the author of AB 465. He says employers are taking advantage of workers by forcing them to sign the deals, under which employees give up the right to sue their company.
“This legislation will help target and remove bad actors in the California workplace -- abusers of workers, people that take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge of the law," Hernandez told Capital Public Radio in a recent interview.
Arbitration is considered a faster, less expensive way to resolve disputes than through the courts, but offers few avenues for appeal.
Hernandez and labor groups contend arbitration is another tool employers are using to erode worker rights.
By contrast, Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce said her organization sees the practice as a time and money saver for companies and their employees. The chamber labeled the bill a ‘job killer’ because it could drive up litigation costs.
"If there’s a handful of employees that don’t sign them yet a handful of employees that do, you have inconsistency in how disputes are being resolved and then you don’t achieve the goal of controlling the costs in attorneys’ fees and time to resolve these disputes," Barrera said.
This is a rare instance of a bill with the chamber's job killer label moving forward to the governor's desk. Only a handful of measures with the label remain active this year in the Legislature.
Brown has until Oct. 11 to decide on the bill.