Why we voted against the Franken Amendment

Posted on November 8, 2009

There has been some confusion about our votes against an amendment Sen. Al Franken offered to prohibit the Defense Department from contracting with any company that requires its employees to use arbitration to resolve certain claims. Arbitration is a procedure where parties agree on a way to resolve a dispute outside of court to avoid expensive, drawn-out lawsuits. We voted against the amendment because it was overly broad, banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees. To be specific: The Obama administration opposed the Franken Amendment, as we did, because of its broad application and the problems associated with its enforcement. This amendment had nothing to do with criminal charges. Arbitration agreements do not in any way limit a prosecutor's ability to bring criminal charges against those who commit crimes. When Senator Franken offered his amendment, he said it was inspired by the experience of Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman who was raped by her coworkers, whose horrific story has incensed us all. Ms. Jones took her case to court and won because the courts decided that the arbitration clause in her employment agreement should not prevent her from pursuing her sexual assault claims in court. When arbitration is inappropriate, the courts should overrule it as they did in this deplorable case. If the Franken Amendment had simply done what Senator Franken said it would do - preserve employees' rights to their day in court if they are victims of rape in the workplace - we would have voted for it in a heartbeat. But the Franken Amendment simply went too far. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate. Contact Sen. Alexander at (202) 224-4944, Sen. Corker at (202) 224-3344.