Arbitration Agreements: Be Careful What You Sign
What is an arbitration agreement? Well, it is essentially an agreement between an employer and employee to not sue their employer if the company fires him or her for bad reasons or the employee feels discriminated against at work. This meets the employee agreed not to pursue any legal action against your employer in court but instead peruse any legal dispute through a process called arbitration, which is an alternative to filing a lawsuit and is not before a judge or jury. Instead, the legal complaint will be heard by a neutral third party called an arbitrator and the arbitrator’s decision in the matter will be binding on both the employee and the employer.
In recent years, there seems to have been a push toward arbitration agreements, which are difficult to get out of. And based on the Supreme Court of the United States’ 2018 decision in Epic Systems (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/epic-systems-corp-v-lewis/) many attorneys believe that such agreements could become even more common in the workplace.
But nevertheless, for the decade, it has been common practice for many employers to request that their employees sign arbitration agreements along with other standard employment forms and documents. But do these people really know what they are signing? Countless employees frequently sign these agreements without even realizing it as they complete their employment paperwork and they do not know that they have signed away their rights to bring a lawsuit in court. This is often because the employment arbitration agreement is a small section included in another contract, or in an employee handbook.
As such, it is especially important that employees read everything before signing any documents so that they know what they are getting themselves into. This includes documents that acknowledge they have read and understood everything contained in a company’s handbook, which is sometimes included in online intake procedures or emails. Lastly, to be extra safe, employees can also ask their employer if any of the documents you are signing, or the employee handbook contains an agreement to arbitrate.
Just as employees need to be careful about what they sign, they must also be aware of what may happen with they refuse to sign one’s rights away. For instance, the company may rescind the job offer, or at-will employees could potentially be fired for refusing to sign. A lot of this will depend on the employee or potential employee’s bargaining power as well. Thus, the more a company desires a particular employee, the more leverage that employee may have to negotiate the terms of his or her employment, including whether or not potential legal claims will be brought in arbitration.
However, it is important to note that just because an employee signs an arbitration agreement it only applies to that specific employer, and the employee may still be able to take the employer to court for some reasons, like in the employment discrimination context when a complaint is made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In such a case, the EEOC can upon finding an adequate reason, sue the employer on the employee’s behalf because the arbitration agreement does not apply to federal or state agencies.
Does your employer want you to sign an arbitration agreement? Or has your employer discriminated against you or wrongfully terminated you and you need legal assistance? The New York City discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC have years of experience litigating claims of discrimination, sexual harassment, and breach of contract. Working together with our Philadelphia and Miami discrimination attorneys, the Derek Smith Law Group has received millions of dollars on behalf of our clients who are the victims of discrimination or survivors of sexual harassment. If you feel you have been subject to unlawful discrimination at work, please give our talented attorneys a call, toll-free at 1-877-469-5297, for your free consultation.