Supreme Court adds weight to arbitration and weakens access to courts
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Missed in all of the hullabaloo over the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision Monday chipping away at First Amendment rights in the name of fear, was this present to corporations and businesses that short-circuit the legal system by forcing employees to give up legal rights in order to hold a job.
In a nutshell, the court held in Rent-A-Center West v. Jackson that private arbitrators get to decide if the agreement under which they are appointed was unfair. That’s like giving a cop the right to determine whether an arrest he or she has made was legitimate. That’s what courts are for. Beyond being absurd on its face, the decision is a further erosion of individuals’ abilities to challenge the fairness of their arbitration agreements.
Where is the fairness in a system that allows employers — in this case, Rent-A-Center — to require potential employees to give up their right to turn to the courts when they feel wronged, as a condition of employment? Or, by extension doctors who force patients to agree to arbitration in the event something goes wrong in their treatment? What’s the option — pass up the treatment?
This might not seem like a big deal when the economy is humming and people are free to choose from among jobs, and can spurn such requirements. Or if the health care system were healthier and people had choices. But in times like these, when job applications come in by the reams for single openings, forcing new hires to forgo legal rights for the sake of a paycheck spotlights just how coercive this activity is. And it’s wrong.