While it is always uncertain what legislation can get passed (particularly when you have shared control with the Democrats in control of the house and the Republicans in control of the Senate), it is good to see that there is now some push being made to restore some worker rights vis a vis their employers.

It is important to remember that employees need protection when compared to their employers because an individual employee does not have the same leverage or power in that relationship between employee and employer.

Here, legislation is being introduced to prohibit forced arbitration clauses.

What usually happens is an employee negotiates with the employer and is hired, but as a condition of their employment, they are forced to sign an agreement that if there is a dispute with the employer, they will not be allowed to sue but will instead be forced into arbitration. Arbitration means that you have private attorneys deciding the case, there is no publicity, and most of all, no jury.

Workers’ compensation claims are a form of arbitration, but it is very highly regulated by the state. The judges are not hired by the employer, but are instead hired by the State of Oregon and are required to be neutral in deciding these cases.

The nice part about the House Bill is that it would also allow employees to form classes so that a class action lawsuit could happen, which would greatly reduce the litigation costs for any individual member of the class. This is legislatively overruling our recent Supreme Court decision.

Again, we have no way of knowing what kind of chance this legislation has passed in the House, much less the Senate, but it is good to at least have the conversation moving back to protecting the rights of working people vis a vis their employer.

plan to protect millions of workers’ legal rights


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