"Sign Your Rights Away Here, Please"
The Diva's on the Supreme Court Arbitration Ruling
March 22, 2001
"Right there, on the back of that application for employment,
was a list of actions my signature permitted the company
to take prior to hiring me, a list of actions I was agreeing to take
prior to being hired, and a list of rights I was agreeing to sign away
in exchange for being permitted to apply..."
Archive for BBBR Resistance: Message #36
Date: Mar 22 2001 02:19:15 EST
From: "BBBR Resistance" <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [BBBResistance] "SIGN YOUR RIGHTS AWAY HERE, PLEASE"
March 22, 2001
"SIGN YOUR RIGHTS AWAY HERE, PLEASE"
Dear Resistance Fighters:
Boy, it's been a while, huh?
First off, a tidbit from the big bag of bad news:
WASHINGTON, March 21 — Employers can force workers to take job-related disputes to arbitration rather than to court, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a decision that will have broad effects on American workplaces.
AGREEMENTS to arbitrate workplace disputes are enforceable even if the employer REQUIRED THE WORKER TO SIGN THE AGREEMENT IN ORDER TO BE HIRED, the court said. Ruling 5-4 for Circuit City Stores, the justices said a gay former employee cannot sue over alleged harassment at work.
I wrote about this subject earlier this month, as part of a 4-Part Series, "The Great American Freedom-and-Justice Swap Meet."
For those of you who haven't already read the column, or would like to give it another look in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, I am including both the URL and the full text of the column below.
Welcome to the Jungle.
REPORTS FROM THE FRONT
MONDAY, MARCH 5
APPLYING FOR A JOB IS JUST ONE PART OF
LONG BEACH (coup2k.com) March 5, 2001 -- The Diva examines the things you
must agree to in order to apply for employment.
I've owned my own small (very small) business since 1988. In fact, I didn't hold my first corporate job until 1996, when My Consort and I moved to California for him to complete his postdoctoral studies. I was convinced, California being as expensive a place to live as it is, that I needed to become gainfully employed immediately. So, as soon as the boxes were unpacked and the knick-knacks arranged, off I went in search of a job.
There are moments in life when you realize the ground has drastically shifted beneath you, and you didn't even notice it. This was one of those times for me.
I thought I knew all I needed to know about applying for a job -- bring your own pen, resume, and identification; bring the addresses and phone numbers of your previous employers and personal references; bring information regarding your salary history, education and achievements; and dress appropriately. So imagine my surprise on my first day of pounding the pavement, when I filled out my first application for employment.
You should keep in mind that my parents taught me that you should never sign anything without reading it. (This started off as an easy enough rule to obey, but has become more time-consuming as the years have worn on.) So, at my first stop of the day, after filling out my application with all the information listed above but before signing it, I read the fine print on the back of the application, just above the line on which I was required to sign, in order to be considered for a job with the company.
I was utterly unprepared for what I was required to agree to. Utterly.
Right there, on the back of that application for employment, was a list of actions my signature permitted the company to take prior to hiring me, a list of actions I was agreeing to take prior to being hired, and a list of rights I was agreeing to sign away in exchange for being permitted to apply.
1. I had to agree to take tests prior to employment, and at any time afterwards should I be hired, including: physical ability/agility tests, personality tests, honesty tests, lie detector tests, drug tests, and medical exams. I had to agree to let my person, possessions, work area, and vehicle be searched at any time, while on company property, for any or no reason. I had to agree to be monitored or recorded or videotaped, in any manner the company saw fit, anywhere on company property.
2. I had to agree to many checks -- criminal, driving, credit -- and I had to agree to agree to a sweeping "background check," including inquiries by anyone the company so designated, to anyone at all, about anything at all, pertaining to my personal "character" or "mode of living." I had to agree to waive any right I might have under the law to see the results of this investigation. I also had to promise that no matter what anyone said about me, whether true or false, I would forgo any legal remedies to which I had a right under law. This included both the company and those interviewed.
3. I had to agree that, regardless of what the company handbook said, I could be fired at any time, with or without notice, for any reason or no reason. I also had to agree that when my employment with the company ended, for whatever reason or no reason, I would not work in that kind of job for another company for a period of three years. I had to sign a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement, promising that I would never disclose anything about the company or its activities to anyone for any reason.
4. I had to agree never to take legal action against the company for any reason, or to be involved in any legal action against the company, in any role, including as a witness. I had to agree to binding arbitration should any dispute arise between myself and the company, that the arbitrator would be of the company's choosing, and in the location the company selected. I had to agree to pay for the arbitration, and to pay whatever amount the company decided. I had to affirm that I had been advised of my right to consult an attorney prior to signing the application, and that I had declined that right freely.
After reading the back of the application, I asked the human resources person if it was legal to require me to sign all that. She said that she was not a lawyer, but if part of it wasn't, then the rest still was. I handed back the application, and said a polite goodbye, assuming that I could find a place to work where I would not be required to sign such an agreement.
I was willing to be paid less, if it meant preserving my privacy and rights.
I am sorry to say that place after place, everywhere I went, the applications were substantially the same. Everywhere I went looking for work, I had to sign a similar agreement in order to be allowed to fill out an application. I am ashamed to say that I eventually started signing applications, and got a job. I am sorry to say that I was asked to do things while there that offended my personal ethics. I am proud to say that I drew the line (though not soon enough, I have to admit), and left the company. And I am very proud to say that I stole my employee file and took it with me when I went.
Yes, I signed away my rights.
But the company has no record of it.
To read the rest of the series, see:
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