Nicole Mitchell: Arbitration without a hearing
by Carol Thompson
Image having to arbitrate a dispute and never having an arbitration hearing. That’s exactly what Nicole Mitchell, a former Weather Channel meteorologist said happened to her.
Mitchell was serving as a reservist in the U.S. Air Force and a member of the “Hurricane Hunters” was terminated from The Weather Channel due to her reservist schedule in 2010.
The Alliance for Justice produced a video called ” Lost in the Fine Print” and Mitchell talks about her employment arbitration proceeding.
Mitchell notes that because of her employment contract she was bound by the forced arbitration clause.
“The whole process is different in many levels,” she said. “After everything, the arbitrator ruled without us even having a hearing.”
She added, “The arbitrator, I never even met this person who made this unilateral decision that we can never appeal.”
The lack of the right to appeal left Mitchell with no recourse. She had to accept the arbitrator’s decision.
“I really don’t think this is what people what their justice system to be like,” she said.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been listening to stories such as Mitchell’s to determine if arbitration is fair for American consumers. In a recently released report the agency said that consumers rarely win arbitration hearings. In fact, the average consumer award is a mere $400. Conversely, companies received awards totaling $2.8 million during the study period.
The CFPB’s report is already being challenged by the companies who benefit from arbitration clauses as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC), and Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) issued the following statement on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) study of pre-dispute arbitration clauses:
“The CFPB’s study makes one wonder if the Bureau is really trying to protect consumers or is instead trying to protect plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“Arbitration is a simple, inexpensive, and modern system for enabling consumers to obtain fair and fast redress for the vast majority of their grievances. Banning pre-dispute arbitration clauses will deprive consumers of the only realistic means of remedying most injuries, leaving them with lawyer-driven class actions lawsuits that provide millions in legal fees to lawyers, but little or no benefit to consumers.
“The CFPB report’s predetermined conclusions ignore key facts and are the result of an unfair and biased approach.
“In light of its fatal flaws, this study should not be used by the CFPB for any subsequent rule-making.”
The issue is expected to be debated in upcoming months as the CFPB continues to weigh public comments.