InsideMS, Winter 2002, Vol. 20, Issue 1
This January, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision about binding arbitration. Many employers require workers to agree to arbitration for employment disputes, signing away their right to go to court. Legal experts representing employees maintain that the difference in bargaining power makes arbitration inherently unfair, and if signing this kind of agreement is required in order to get a job, the practice is coercive as well.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, maintained that employers are left at a disadvantage if workers are “allowed two bites at the apple.” Disability rights advocates believe the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was strengthened by this ruling.
In a 6–3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the EEOC is not bound by “arbitration-only” agreements between workers and their employers. This frees the EEOC to sue an employer on behalf of a worker for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars race and sex discrimination on the job.
The EEOC brings relatively few discrimination cases to court. In 2000, for example, it brought 291 lawsuits out of nearly 80,000 complaints. Employee advocates had feared that discrimination complaints would dry up if no action could be taken, depriving the EEOC of real-world information about workplace practices.
This decision ends that fear. The EEOC is now able to act even if the employee has relinquished the right to sue.
For additional information
ADA and People with MS (Society brochure)
© 2002 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society