500 signatures reached
To: The National Association of Legal Professions (NALP)
Don't Let Law Firms Hide Harassment and Discrimination
We are law students who are deeply concerned that many law firms require their employees to sign forced arbitration agreements with non-disclosure provisions as a condition of employment. In advance of the National Association for Law Placement (“NALP”) annual conference next month, we write to request that NALP include two questions on the NALP directory for on-campus recruitment that will help students identify these firms.
In March 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement, reports emerged that several prominent law firms were requiring summer associates to sign forced arbitration agreements. These agreements required summer associates to arbitrate all employment-related claims, waiving their right to sue to vindicate their workplace rights, including those that arise under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. These contracts also contained nondisclosure agreements that prohibited signatories from disclosing the “fact or content” of the arbitration proceeding, including the very existence of the proceeding. After this news broke, several law firms announced that they will no longer require at least some employees to sign these coercive contracts, and that they would retroactively rescind the arbitration provisions in prior contracts. We are heartened by these changes, but not all firms have followed suit. We remain concerned that some firms are still forcing their employees to sign away important protections, as a condition for accepting a job—and that some applicants may not know they will be subject to a forced arbitration clause until after they accept an offer.
Why is this important?
We believe these contracts are harmful because they shift claims related to mistreatment at work, such as discrimination, sexual harassment, or denials of family leave, out of court and into secretive proceedings that often unfairly favor the employer. Students who are expected to sign these agreements may have no notice of these policies until after they have accepted their offers. As a result, they have no meaningful power to negotiate these terms or seek alternative employment.
NALP is uniquely positioned to gather and distribute this information to law students. We hope that NALP will use its influence to collect and disseminate this information, which is critical to us as we make important decisions about our futures.
Specifically, we urge NALP to adopt the following questions:
1: Does your firm require any employees (including summer associates, first-year associates, paralegals, or other non-lawyer staff) to sign a mandatory arbitration contract, regarding certain or any types of disputes, as a condition of employment?
2: If yes, does this mandatory arbitration agreement include a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement which encompasses workplace misconduct?
As the dominant organization in legal recruiting and career development, NALP’s leadership in this matter can effect meaningful change because it will empower students to make career choices that align more closely with their values. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue.