In America, having you day in court is symbolic of one of the more fundamental rights we take for granted, that of being able to go to a impartial court and ask for redress of wrongs. But in many instances, the right is being eliminated under a legalistic concept of contract law.
The fiction is this; a contract is a document negotiated by two parties, ideally with equal bargaining power, who reach a “meeting of the minds” on a topic, with each have rights and obligations.
In many places in American life, this fiction is being employed by entities with substantial power to force those with little power to abandon their right to go to court to resolve disputes. Instead, they offer a contractual arbitration agreement as a substitute for the courtroom.
From airline tickets to credit cards to employment offers, your right to take a dispute to court is prohibited, because you have accepted an agreement to arbitrate all matters.
In the employment context, involving wage and hour disputes, this prevents the use of class action lawsuits to aggregate the damages, and make it financially viable for an attorney to take the case.
Applebee’s has lost a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that found this type of arbitration clause to be “an illegal unfair labor practice.” A franchisor of the chain has vowed to appeal to the full NLRB and then to federal court to overturn the decision.
Employers know that by prohibiting class action lawsuits they can insulate themselves from liability for wage theft cases, as few individuals would have sufficiently large damages to make an individual lawsuit viable.
Source: inthesetimes.com, “Applebee’s Is Trying To Limit Workers’ Ability to Sue the Company When Their Wages Are Stolen,” Bruce Vail, June 9, 2015