Governor Jay Inslee signed Executive Order 10-03 on Tuesday supporting Washington workers in the wake of last month’s US Supreme court decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. The Court decision upheld employers rights to condition employment upon submission to mandatory arbitration and/or class action law suit waivers for wage or working condition claims. The argument is that these mandatory clauses discourage workers, who already suffer from an imbalance of power with employers, from standing up for themselves against wage theft or poor working conditions.
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The order directs Washington State agencies to consider when contracting with businesses whether the business can demonstrate or certify that its employees are not required to sign individual arbitration clauses and class or collective action waivers. Explains Inslee,
“In our state, we value companies that respect workers’ rights. There is power in numbers. There is power in transparency. And there is power in our pocketbook to influence companies to do the right thing. We can’t change the Supreme Court’s ruling but we can change how we do business.”
Though the order does not prevent the state from contracting with firms that require mandatory individual arbitration clauses, it sends a message that Washington is pro-worker, possibly to the detriment of some larger employers that see mandatory arbitration clauses as a way to control legal costs.