Durbin, Duckworth, Blumenthal Introduce Legislation Opening The Courthouse Doors To Consumers, Workers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and a group of 34 Senators in introducing legislation to stop the use of unfair forced arbitration clauses, which are widely used to limit Americans’ access to justice. The FAIR (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) Actwould eliminate forced arbitration clauses in consumer, antitrust, employment, and civil rights cases, and would allow consumers and workers to freely choose arbitration after a dispute occurs. 

Forced arbitration clauses restrict Americans’ access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their right to go to court. Instead, consumers and workers are forced into an unfair arbitration system where corporations can write the rules; everything can be done in secret, without public rulings; discovery can be limited, making it hard for consumers to get the evidence they need to prove their case; and there’s no meaningful judicial review, so consumers and employees are often unable to appeal a decision even if the arbitrator gets it wrong.  

“Forced arbitration erodes Americans’ ability to seek justice in the courts by forcing them into a system that is too often rigged against them.  Forced arbitration clauses require consumers and employees to sign away their constitutional right to seek accountability in a court of law,” said Durbin.  “The FAIR Act would rebalance the scales, protecting Americans’ right to a fair and just legal proceeding.”

“We need to ensure that everyone can exercise their constitutional right to seek justice in the courts,” said Duckworth. “This legislation will help hardworking Americans do just that by limiting forced arbitrations that allow entities to thrive at the cost of workers and consumers’ right to be heard.”

In addition to Durbin, Duckworth, and Blumenthal, the FAIR Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA). 

The FAIR Act is supported by a broad coalition of public-interest groups including: AKPIRG, Alliance for Justice, American Association for Justice, Americans for Financial Reform, California Employment Lawyers Association, Center for Auto Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Economic Integrity, Center for Economic Justice, Center for Justice & Democracy, Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR), Center for Progressive Reform, Center for Responsible Lending, Citizen Works, Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws, Consumer Action, Consumer Attorneys of CA, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Consumer Watchdog, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, DC Consumer Rights Coalition, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc., Demand Progress, Earthjustice, Economic Action Maryland, Economic Policy Institute, Essential Information, Farmworker Association of Florida, Food & Water Watch, Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration (Former), Impact Fund, Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Justice in Aging, Kansas Holistic Defenders, Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, Long Term Care Community Coalition, Mobilization for Justice, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Association of the Deaf, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, National Consumers League, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Organization for Women, National Urban League, National Women's Law Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, New Jersey Citizen Action, Northwest Workers' Justice Project, People’s Parity Project, Prosperity Indiana, Protect All Children's Environment, Public Citizen, Public Good Law Center, Public Justice, Public Justice Center, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Student Borrower Protection Center, Texas Appleseed, Texas Watch, The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, THE ONE LESS FOUNDATION, The Sikh Coalition, Tzedek DC, USPIRG, Virginia Organizing, Woodstock Institute, and Workplace Fairness. 

“The FAIR Act’s ban on forced arbitration clauses in the corporate fine-print is urgently needed to restore critical legal protections, which would ensure consumers, workers, and small businesses can seek to hold corporate bad actors accountable in court for the harm they cause,” said Christine Hines, legislative director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

“Forced arbitration is a rigged game, one that repeat corporate players nearly always win,” said Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Public Citizen. “The FAIR Act would level the playing field and ensure that consumers and workers regain access to the courts when harmed by a company’s wrongdoing.” 

“Today's introduction of the FAIR Act is a critical step in the fight to undo the corporate distortion of our legal system. Corporate lawyers designed the system of forced arbitration to slam the courthouse doors closed on working people, ensuring that they have no plausible path to justice when wronged by corporations. Passing this legislation will re-open those doors and give every worker and consumer the chance to pursue the day in court to which they are entitled under our system of laws. We urge members of Congress to act swiftly to advance the FAIR Act and restore access to the justice system to Americans,” said Molly Coleman, Executive Director, People’s Parity Project. 

“The FAIR Act restores the rights of patients, workers, and consumers to seek justice when a corporation breaks the law. Every American should be able to decide how to pursue accountability rather than having a corporation make the choice for them with forced arbitration,” said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen.