Labor & Employment

Google ends mandatory arbitration of workplace disputes and ban on employee class actions

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Google will end mandatory arbitration of employment disputes beginning March 21, expanding its previous decision to end forced arbitration only in cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault.

Google announced the policy change last week, report the New York Times, Axios, Slate, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Wired and the San Jose Mercury News Silicon Beat Tech News Blog.

Besides ending forced arbitration, Google also will stop forcing employees to waive their rights to bring class action claims.

Employees still can opt for arbitration, but it will not be required. The policy change doesn’t apply to disputes that already have settled or to former employees with unresolved disputes, but it will apply to employee disputes currently in arbitration.

The policy change extends to Google’s contracts with outside contract employees, although contractor and third-party staffing companies won’t have to follow the policy in their own contracts.

Google took its first step to end forced arbitration in November after 20,000 workers walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct claims. At that time, Google decided to ban forced arbitration only in cases alleging sexual harassment and assault.

Facebook, Uber, Lyft and Microsoft also have ended mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment and assault claims.

Several large law firms also dropped mandatory arbitration for at least some employee disputes after pressure from students at Harvard Law School.

The ABA House of Delegates voted in August to urge legal employers not to require mandatory binding arbitration of sexual harassment claims.

In January, the House of Delegates went further when it urged legal employers not to require mandatory arbitration of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation claims “based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, genetic information or status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence.”

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