Tech Employees Want Forced Arbitration to End for Good
Whenever you’re hired for a new job, you end up signing a lot of paperwork. Within your inches-thick employment contract, for example, you might find a nondisclosure agreement, a non-compete agreement (depending on your state), a clause dealing with intellectual property rights, and more (often much more!). But if there’s one particularly controversial aspect of modern contracts, it’s forced arbitration agreements. Hated and feared by many employees, these agreements prevent workplace disputes from ending up in court; instead, such conflicts are worked out before an arbitrator, whose decisions are usually binding. Forced arbitration allows companies to keep conflicts out of the public eye. They also take a number of employee options off the proverbial table, including the right to sue as individuals or participate in a class-action lawsuit. Blind, which conducts anonymous surveys of the tech industry, recently asked its community how they felt about ending forced arbitration provisions in employee contracts. Unsurprisingly, some 71.49 percent said that such provisions should end, while only 28.51 percent said they should remain. (Some 5,562 people responded to the survey, which ran from Sept. 12 through 19.) Here’s a company-by-company breakdown: “Even the companies with the lowest percentage of employees answering ‘Yes,’ more than half of employees at each answered that forced arbitration should end,” Blind mentioned in its note accompanying the data. Employees aren’t alone in that feeling. Earlier in September, a public letter signed by 47 advocacy groups (including the NAACP and ACLU) asked some of tech’s largest firms to end forced arbitration. “We have seen how forced arbitration clauses have been used in a variety of ways to hide wrongdoing, from companies attempting to silence claims of sexual harassment to stopping customers who have been injured on their products from accessing justice,” read the version sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “Your silence is contributing to a culture of secrecy.” In addition to Amazon, tech firms that practice forced arbitration include Facebook, and, at least in some cases in the past, Google. In December 2017, Microsoft ended its forced-arbitration agreements related to gender discrimination and sexual harassment claims. “The silencing of people’s voices has clearly had an impact in perpetuating sexual harassment,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, told The New York Times at the time. Whether or not more companies eliminate the practice, tech pros clearly hate it. But keep in mind that refusing to sign a forced arbitration agreement can lead a company to pull their offer of employment.