Starting a new job often means being required to sign a huge stack of documents. In many cases, that stack includes an arbitration agreement of some kind that you are required to sign if you want the job. Although many employees sign before reading all of the documents, they will still be subject to the terms of the arbitration agreement whether they understood those terms or not. So, first, be sure to read everything you sign. Some employees know what they are signing, but feel forced to agree to arbitration as a condition of their employment. You should know, there are efforts being made to put a stop to forced arbitration, including in the employment context.
What an arbitration agreement means to an employee
Basically, arbitration agreements in the employment context require employees to give up their rights to sue their employer in a court, before a jury, if any type of employment dispute arises. So, if you believe you have been retaliated or discriminated against on your job, you will not be able to file a lawsuit against your employer, as would otherwise be your right. If you do, your employer will simply pull out the arbitration agreement you signed and your lawsuit will most likely be dismissed.
When you are required to submit your employment claims to arbitration, not only do you give up your right to have the court system resolve your disputes, but usually an arbitration firm chosen by your employer will decide your claims and that decision is legally binding. Employers use arbitration as a way to shield themselves from liability under the various employment laws.
Why forced arbitration in employment hurts employees
Forced arbitration essentially denies employees access to the civil justice system whenever their employers violate our federal employment and civil rights laws. In fact, it is the antithesis of our public justice system because it takes place in private tribunals without any of the legal safeguards that our justice system provides, such as a written record and the right to appeal.
Forced arbitration has become very widespread, with more than 27 percent of employers in the United State reporting that they required forced arbitration of employment disputes. That is more than 36 million employees forced to waive their right to pursue their claims in court.
Congressmen have introduced legislation to combat this problem
According to the press conference held on March 7th of this year, several anti-forced arbitration bills have been reintroduced in Congress, along with a new bill that focuses particularly on the harm that results from the confidentiality and secrecy requirements found in nearly all pre-dispute forced arbitration clauses.
While arbitration can be an alternative method of dispute resolution, it is only appropriate when it is entered into knowingly and voluntarily by all parties involved in the dispute. Otherwise, the typical result is a process that is unevenly stacked against the employee.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!