The moves, which are being made via a California ballot initiative, would "devastate the class action system as a tool for civil rights enforcement", according to a letter sent to Intel chief executive Paul Otellini today.
Objections came from more than a dozen civil rights activists, including Connie Rice from the Advancement Project, Stewart Kwoh from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Eva Patterson from the Equal Justice Society.
"Your initiative removes vital class action protections specifically intended to allow US citizens to defend their civil rights. We must view this initiative as an attack on the civil rights of Californians," the letter states (PDF).
"The pending ballot measure proposed by the organisation you now chair, the so-called Civil Justice Association of California, could virtually eliminate the class action lawsuit as a tool for civil rights enforcement.
"Class action lawsuits have played a fundamental role in civil rights activism in America."
The ballot measure would, according to the activists, limit civil rights, worker and consumer protections by rigging the playing field in favour of big businesses by requiring evidence of wrongdoing before a case can move forward.
The changes would also, the letter alleges, permit rich and powerful defendants to delay trials for years by allowing unjustified appeals.
Justice would also be delayed and money wasted because plaintiffs would need to file two separate lawsuits if they wanted to stop an outrageous practice and receive refunds or be compensated for any damage suffered.
In addition it is claimed that the moves would intimidate low-wage employees by requiring individual members of a lawsuit to be identified and exposed to possible retribution by their employers for joining an action about working conditions, or refusing to abandon their complaints.
Civil rights activists lay into Intel
By Robert Jaques on Aug 19, 2007 9:42PM