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New law prevents forced arbitration in employment contracts

A contractor promised work and never came through. A supervisor keeps making inappropriate comments and no one will do anything about it. It feels like the only option is to sue the responsible parties in California civil court. But then you find your contract requires you to rely on arbitration.

Fortunately, that conclusion’s days are numbered. The government in Sacramento recently passed Assembly Bill 51, so clauses like this in employment contracts will be illegal starting with the beginning of 2020. The clause added to the California Labor Code by the bill prevents employers from making forced arbitration a condition of employment.

Forced arbitration has long been considered an advantage for employers who could avoid costly court cases when employees have problems with labor regulations, harassment or other issues at work. For example, a contractor could not sue before going to arbitration if the construction contract specified.

Construction specialists (and the general contractors who hire them) are picking up work now may be a little confused by exactly when AB 51 takes effect. Some exceptions may center around employment agreements that are considered to be “extended” from contracts that exist before the end of 2019. It is important for employees to know their rights in the case of problems that may require recourse in a court of law.

There may be no better ally for workers or employers with contract disputes to solve than an attorney. A lawyer can help interpret the laws and work out how they protect a worker’s right to sue to preserve their contracts or guarantee an employer’s right to find an alternative. Legal representation also helps people get past temporary issues and focus on their careers.