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Is Arbitration Turning Civil Court Into Corporate Court?

June 16, 2016
Colson Hicks Eidson

Have you heard of arbitration? It’s a separate legal system used by corporations to handle disputes with employees and consumers. The institutions that use this system claim that it is fair and faster than the regular court system, but what they won’t tell you is that they can influence arbitration in their favor, and they can force you into arbitration instead of letting you take them to court.

Is Arbitration Turning Civil Court Into Corporate Court?

Hidden within employment and consumer contracts are little clauses known as forced arbitration agreements. Companies have been using them more and more since the 1980s, and these legal clauses are built for one purpose, to strip away the constitutional rights of whoever signs on the dotted line. The clauses can be found in cellphone statements, employment contracts, and even in nursing home agreements. They prevent the signer from taking any disputes they may have with a company to court, and instead force the case into the arbitration system.

How Is The Arbitration System Unfair?

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), corporations gain several unfair advantages over individuals taken to arbitration. First, it allows corporations to shorten statutes of limitations, change deadlines, and it can allow corporations to alter the burden of proof. Secondly, corporations are often repeat customers to the arbitrators that oversee this process, which further tips the scales in their favor. Lastly, forced arbitration can often be more expensive than a class action lawsuit, which can make pursuing a case too expensive for an individual. Plus, arbitration payouts are notoriously less than the damages awarded by juries.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Al Franken introduced a bill in February to help close up the loopholes that allow corporations to turn civil court into their own private playgrounds, but there’s still a long way to go. Be sure to contact your local, state and national representatives to speak out against the stripping of your constitutional rights, and keep following our blog to stay up-to-date on your legal rights.

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