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Tech employees protest forced arbitration clauses

Workers at some of the best-known technology companies in New York and across the country are taking action to pressure these firms on how they deal with employee complaints. One group of Google workers launched a social media campaign on Jan. 15, in which they posted on Instagram and Twitter urging a change in corporate policy on workplace harassment cases. The campaign focuses particularly on forced arbitration agreements, clauses found in employment contracts that bar employees from filing a court action against the companies they work for over disputes that emerge in the workplace.

Google and several other firms recently stopped this practice for cases related to sexual harassment and assault complaints after a wide range of revelations regarding the mistreatment of female employees in the industry. These changes came after the #MeToo movement that affected a number of industries, including entertainment and politics as well as technology. However, the arbitration clauses remain in place even for matters relating to other serious social issues with implications for the tech industry, including age and racial discrimination.

According to studies, workers are more likely to be successful when they challenge their employers in court rather than relying on a mandatory arbitration system. In addition, even successful cases in arbitration often result in lower awards for victimized employees than those that go through litigation. The issue of workplace discrimination is significant in the industry; statistics on diversity show that women are significantly underrepresented as are people of color. The campaigners noted that changing these policies could play an important role in creating an environment that is racially diverse.

Forced arbitration contracts are one of many serious issues affecting workers' rights to protect themselves under the law. Employees facing discrimination in the workplace can consult with an employment law attorney about their options to seek redress.

Source: Recode, "Google employees are launching a social media blitz to pressure tech giants on workplace harassment issues", Shirin Ghaffary, Jan. 14, 2019

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