Forced Arbitration Centrally Spotlighted in Google Developments

“Today, justice won.”

That was the expressed view of one national legislator last week following flatly notable news concerning global technology giant Google relevant to employee relations.

And people are paying attention to the details because Google is, well, Google.

Here’s what happened: the company caved on its longstanding practice requiring workers with grievances to take them to an arbitrator rather than to a court.

That is hugely significant, for multiple reasons.

For starters, a forced arbitration venue is typically closed off from public scrutiny and even secretive. Critics have long stressed that arbitration hinders key findings regarding wrongdoing – workplace-tied sexual harassment, for example – from ever being noted and properly assessed in the public.

Moreover, and unlike select matters brought before a court, arbitration cases uniformly involve a single plaintiff. They preclude class action filings that can band high numbers of claimants with similar concerns and address major problems in an efficient way.

And there is this, too: Forced arbitration is often perceived by American workers who suffer unlawful on-the-job harm as a one-sided dispute resolution vehicle that decidedly favors employers.

Google succumbed to employee and public pressure late last year, waiving mandatory arbitration for assault claims and sexual harassment claims. A national media report notes that the big news from last week denotes “a significant expansion of that policy.” Google has now dropped the arbitration requirement in wrongful termination disputes. Additionally, it will no longer challenge class action claims.

Forced arbitration is slated to be a major discussion focus on Capitol Hill in upcoming days, as lawmakers and employees — including a group of workers from Google — push bills seeking to universally terminate the process for all American workers.

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