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A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 21, 2001 decision in Circuit City Stores Inc v Adams (79 EPD 40,401). In Circuit City, the Court held that employment contracts containing arbitration agreements are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) because Section 1 of the FAA, which excludes “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” from coverage, only applies to transportation workers. “The Preservation of Civil Rights Protections Act of 2001″ (H.R. 2282) would amend the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 to exclude all employment contracts. Specifically, the bill would render any clause of any agreement between an employer and an employee that requires arbitration of a claim arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States unenforceable except in cases where, after the claim arises, the parties involved voluntarily consent to submit such claim to arbitration. However, the bill would not preclude an employee or union from enforcing any of the provisions of a valid collective bargaining agreement. The bill was introduced in the House by Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, D-OH, and has a total of 37 co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Judiciary and Education and the Workforce Committees. MIXED REACTION TO ‘CIRCUIT CITY’ Some civil rights and employee advocates have objected to the Court’s Circuit City decision. They assert that arbitration can favor employers and restrict employees’ rights. “The Court’s decision in Circuit City Stores shattered major workplace protection by allowing employers to circumvent the judicial system in favor [of] arbitration panels, which are often stacked against employees,” said National Organization for Women Executive Vice President Kim Gandy, shortly after the decision was issued. In contrast, big business applauded the Court’s ruling. “Arbitration avoids time-consuming and expensive lawsuits, without limiting a worker’s right to a fair hearing,” remarked Stephen Bokat, general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. EEOC POSITION In 1996, the EEOC adopted a National Enforcement Plan (NEP), setting forth the EEOC’s enforcement priorities. One of the established enforcement priorities was to address claims involving the legality of agreements that mandate binding arbitration of employment discrimination disputes imposed as a condition of initial or continued employment. In 1997, the EEOC issued a policy statement on mandatory binding arbitration, stating that such agreements are contrary to the fundamental principles of federal civil rights law, including laws prohibiting employment discrimination. � 2001, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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