Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A bill that would allow Kentucky employers to require workers to agree to arbitration as a condition of employment moved closer to becoming law on Tuesday, passing the House 51 to 45.

Republican supporters of Senate Bill 7 said it will restore the status quo that had existed for decades until an October 2018 state Supreme Court decision made Kentucky the only state in the nation not to allow arbitration agreements for employment.

“We don’t want to give reasons for employers not to relocate their businesses into Kentucky,” said Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican from eastern Jefferson County.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, is a priority for the business lobby, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Greater Louisville Inc.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, questioned whether Kentucky is really the only outlier state and said arbitration agreements put employees at a disadvantage when they are sexually harassed or discriminated against for racial or other improper reasons.

Workers who sign such agreements would have to use a private dispute resolution process – not a public court – to pursue legal claims against the employer, such as being stiffed out of wages, wrongfully terminated or harassed.

Rep. Jason Nemes, an eastern Jefferson County Republican and advocate of the bill, said it would not affect prosecutions for crimes, such as a workplace rape, or remove employees’ option to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, a Democrat from south Louisville, said employees are not in a position to understand the implications of signing arbitration agreements when agreeing to a job, or being required to sign one to maintain employment.

“I hope they don’t find out the hard way,” she said, after being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace.

The House and Senate have each passed different versions of the bill, which must be reconciled before the bill heads to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.