Today, the California Senate voted to approve AB 3080, a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring their employees to arbitrate employment-related claims against their employers. Under current law, employers can require their employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Arbitration is a private court system without judges and juries. Instead, arbitrators -- usually retired judges -- are paid to adjudicate claims. Arbitrations are usually confidential, and held in hotel conference rooms or other private locations. If the bill becomes law, employers in California will no longer be allowed to require employees to give up their right to go to court. Instead, employees will be able to sue their employers in court for discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, and a host of other claims that employees can bring under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country. Employers will also be prohibited from requiring employees to arbitrate wage-and-hour claims under the California Labor Code.
Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill. If he signs AB 3080 into law, it will almost certainly be challenged by employers as contrary to the Federal Arbitration Act, a federal law which expresses a preference for cases to be resolved through private arbitration. Nonetheless, today's Senate vote is a huge win for employees. Many of our clients have no idea that they have signed arbitration agreements giving up their rights to sue their employers in court. Forced arbitration agreements are contrary to American values, and should be ended.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.