In November 2012, about 40 employees of BLB Resources, an Irvine real estate firm, gathered in a room festooned with balloons to celebrate a colleague who was deploying to Afghanistan.
Kevin Ziober, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, dug into a cake decorated with an American flag and the words, "Best Wishes Kevin" in red, white and blue. "I texted my brother, my mom and my grandma to tell them, ‘What a great sendoff!’" he recalls.
Three hours later, as he was packing up his desk, the 43-year-old was terminated from his $180,000 a year job. He was told, he said, that the project he was working on would likely not outlast his year overseas.
A federal law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, gives military service members the right to recover their jobs when they return from war. But since 2014, after Ziober got back to Orange County and filed a lawsuit, BLB has been battling to force him into a private arbitration proceeding, rather than allow his court case to proceed.
Ziober’s case comes as opposition to mandatory arbitration is gaining national traction, part of a growing debate over whether corporate policies are fueling economic inequality. Last month, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a rule to prevent banks and credit card companies from using arbitration to prevent customers from filing class-action…