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May 19, 2003

Big Win for Workers in 9th Circuit

The 9th Circuit has ruled that employees cannot be forced to sign away their legal rights as a condition of employment. Such agreements to "arbitrate" (in employer-designed private courts) any discrimination or other claim against a company is "unconscionable" given the power inequalities between employer and individual employee.

This case involving Circuit City in California is a key case, since the rightwing Supreme Court majority back in 2001 gutted a 1925 federal law that had specifically been designed to protect workers from such mandatory arbitration agreements. I wrote about the Rehnquist majority's twisted dishonest reading of legislative history -- so much for original intent -- which used the federal law to override state laws against such arbitration-- oh yeah, so much for federalism and deferral to the states.

We'll see what happens if the Supreme Court gets their hands on the case again, although this is a good reminder that the courts matter not just for interpreting the Constitution but for basic readings of national legislation that can have massive effects on employee and consumer rights.

Posted by Nathan at May 19, 2003 09:47 AM