By Maryann Marino
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Three years ago Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation on employment arbitration, saying he wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the issue. Now the Supreme Court has spoken: Businesses can ask employees to sign arbitration agreements to settle employment disputes instead of going through costly and lengthy litigation. So it’s time for the governor to follow through with another veto.
Any attempt to contradict the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing arbitration in employment contracts, as proposed in Assembly Bill 3080 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, would, as you have warned in the past when you vetoed similar legislation, “result in years of costly litigation and legal uncertainty.” What we can guarantee is that signing this bad bill would certainly add to an already unstable and hostile environment for California employers and forcing a burden on them that does not exist in other states.
Under AB 3080, California businesses, especially in cases involving disputes over alleged sexual harassment or misconduct, would be victimized. Not only would businesses and employers face civil liabilities for any violations of AB 3080, but they could also face criminal charges as well.
It’s clear that as written, AB 3080 could be greatly misused and serve to help trial attorneys, not workers. It creates an environment where lawyers can troll for unsuspecting employees willing to sue their bosses, under the auspices of a large payday. The number of civil claims that could then result from this law would overwhelm the state’s judiciary system by, in effect, forcing all claims to be tried by a judge and jury.
In the great majority of cases, California workers receive relatively little in these lawsuits, especially when compared to the compensation that likely would have received through arbitration.
In the end, the outcomes of this measure would be detrimental — creating more lawsuits, costing jobs and forcing business owners to close their doors. Business owners, many of whom could not afford an attorney to fight the allegation, would end up settling for huge sums of money that would benefit the trial attorneys, leaving little for the injured workers.
Clearly, opening-up the floodgates on arbitration would only serve to harm hard-working business owners and the millions of jobs they create. It’s worth saying again: AB 3080 hurts businesses and kills jobs in favor of legal payouts to trial lawyers that could have been resolved through arbitration
Arbitration has proven to be an effective method for resolving disputes. Both the business owners and employees fare better by utilizing arbitration, which is a much faster, fairer and more cost-effective way to resolve disputes than waiting sometimes years to get a court date to have the case heard. Through this method, the only ones who seem not to benefit are the trial attorneys.
Gov. Brown is to be applauded for his foresight on waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. Now he should veto this latest attempt to kill arbitration in employment agreements.
Maryann Marino is regional director for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
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