back to article Sueballs at the ready? Google promises end to forced arbitration after wave of staff protests

Google has said it will end forced arbitration next month and lift a ban on class-action suits after intense pressure from staffers. At the moment, Google – like many other tech firms – resolves workplace disputes through forced arbitration, which takes employees out of the courts and requires them to waive any rights to sue …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Forced arbitration will just hinder their collaboration with China to provide censorship.

  2. ThatOne Silver badge

    Modern serfs?

    While I see what the general advantages of arbitration might be, in this case it does seem a little strange: "Please sign that paper which says that if I do you any wrong, you have no recourse but to let me decide what should be done about it." It's a little like putting the burglars in charge of the house keys, isn't it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Modern serfs?

      Exactly. However, do you build trust if a career burglar gives the house keys back? Could the burglar have deceptive plans to make you believe a trust can be built by throwing around words like "Do no evil" and "Live, Laugh, Love"? It has worked already for the thief's guild.

    2. Adrian 4

      Re: Modern serfs?

      "but to let me decide what should be done about it."

      But that's not arbitration, as I understand it. Arbitration means going to a third party who will neutrally comment on the situation.

      Whether such a third party - perhaps a lawyer paid by the employer - is actually neutral is a slightly different problem.

  3. Velv

    I see no issue with a clause in the employment contract that says an arbitration route must be followed first.

    It should never be permissible to sign away your civil rights and individuals must always ultimately be able to resort to the court of law in the event of a dispute (which is in theory an external and independent authority). Courts generally look more favourably on individuals who have attempted to resolve an issue before reaching for the courts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Arbitration clauses in the contracts of exempt employees (whether executed by the individual or "accepted" along with the text of the employee handbook/manual on hiring) have been standard for decades. The process is also well-accepted. Taking a claim to arbitration needs to happen first. As you point out, even if there's no explicit requirement for that it is likely a court will pressure the parties to divert to arbitration just to clear its docket. All that said, there are some contracts that should just be unenforceable. We don't allow people to contract themselves into slavery here in the US because, well, among other things, that would be a direct violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Same should hold for waiving your right to a day in a real, government established, court of competent jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the protections of speech, freedom of association and due process have in the past been confined by courts to being enforceable only against the government. You don't really have a right to freedom of speech in your workplace, for example, unless that's part of your employment contract. Maybe it's time to revisit all of that, especially now that big companies have invested so much in owning the politicians who regulate them.

      1. a_yank_lurker

        The Bill of Rights exists to protect people from the government. Private organizations have more leeway in the rules they impose on members and employees as part of the membership or employment. However there are legal limits to what a private organization can impose.

        The real problem for Google (and many others) is they have abused the arbitration system to the point that employees are looking for a more direct redress.

  4. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    It didn't really matter...

    You can sue regardless of arbitration agreements, in the US. Signing such an agreement to take a job is considered to be duress, since people must work to eat. Alternatively, if arbitration doesn't go your way you can still file a suit.

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