Forced Arbitration Case Before U.S. Supreme Court

On April 26, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson, a case that the employee’s trial lawyers say “poses significant questions about the scope and meaning of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), the relationship between courts and arbitration, and the basic ability of consumers and employees to gain access to courts.” This comes from Matt Wessler’s post in the blog entry of the Public Justice website, http://www.publicjustice.net/Resources/Backgrounds/Jackson-v-Rent-a-Center7.aspx. One of the most important decision the court will likely address is who gets to decide whether terms of an arbitration agreement that is forced on the employee (take it or no job) is unconscionable—a court of law or the arbitration panel.

From the perspective of the employee, one should keep in mind that the arbitration panel has a financial interest in keeping the arbitration before it because doing so generates fees for the arbitration entity and its arbitrators. If employees are faced with take-it-or-leave-it forced arbitration agreements in their jobs, and these unilaterally imposed agreements remove the issue of whether the terms can, in good conscious, be enforced from the public scrutiny that is found in our court system and relegates these decisions to the private, closed door, lack of public access decisions of private arbitration panels, employees will be forced to refuse employment on these terms or suffer yet another blow to their civil rights in employment.