Some employers ask their employees to sign arbitration agreements. These agreements as the workers to waive their right to file lawsuits against the employers because of job issues, including breach of contract, wrongful termination and discrimination. Employees who sign these agreements are agreeing to forgo their rights to pursue legal remedies in court and instead resolve their disputes through arbitration. If you have been asked to sign an arbitration agreement or have signed one and have a legal dispute with your employer, you may want to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to learn about the rights that you might have.
Why arbitration disadvantages employees
Arbitration has several disadvantages for employees. If you go to arbitration, your case will be decided by an arbitrator who is paid for his or her services by one or both sides. You will not have your case heard by a jury. In arbitration, the evidence that you will be able to get from your employer will be limited. This is a detriment to workers because the employers in employment disputes often have the information and the documents that relate to the workers’ claims in their possession. Decisions in arbitration are also generally final, meaning that you will not have the right to appeal if you believe that the decision that was made by the arbitrator was wrong or unfair.
Arbitration also offers some advantages to people. The process is not as formal as what happens in a court trial. This can make the process easier for everyone. Cases that go to arbitration are also decided more quickly than those that are litigated in court.
Review the documents carefully
It is common for workers to be given stacks of forms to sign, and they often unintentionally sign arbitration agreements when they are new to their jobs. If you start a new job, you should read everything that you are given carefully so that you know exactly what you are signing.
When you sign something that you are given, you are agreeing to everything that is contained in it. You should not sign anything that you are given without reading it. If you do sign, you are potentially giving up rights that you might otherwise have.
What happens if you refuse to sign?
You have the right to refuse to sign an arbitration agreement, but your job might be in jeopardy. Your employer may rescind your offer of employment if you will not sign the agreement. At-will employees who refuse to sign the agreements may be fired.
Some employers will be willing to negotiate about signing arbitration agreements, however. If you are a valued worker or are an employee who is highly sought after, your employer may be willing to let you avoid signing an arbitration agreement. You also may have the option of agreeing to sign only if you are allowed to negotiate an arbitration agreement that is fairer to you.
Making an arbitration agreement fair
While an employer may not be willing to negotiate your arbitration agreement, an employer is unlikely to fire you for asking to negotiate. This is not any different than discussing your benefits or salary. If you ask to negotiate your agreement and your request is granted, it is a good idea to get help from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to secure an agreement that is fair to you. Here are some things to consider.
Choice of arbitrator
You should be able to have equal input into choosing an arbitrator since the arbitrator has a lot of power, and you won’t be able to appeal a decision that is made. Both you and your employer should be able to reject one arbitrator each without having to state a reason.
Arbitrators who might serve in your case should be required to make disclosures about their personal and business interests so that you can make certain that they are not biased. You and your employer should have the ability to reject an arbitrator who has a conflict of interest.
Since employers want arbitration, they should be the parties who pay for it.
It is important for you to ensure that the remedies that are available to you in arbitration are the same as if you had pursued your case in the litigation process. For example, you should not be prevented from seeking damages for emotional distress or punitive damages.
Right to representation
Your agreement should allow you to be represented by a lawyer during the arbitration process.
If you are the victim of illegal discrimination, you are able to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regardless of any arbitration agreement that you have signed. Your agreement applies to you and not to an agency like the EEOC that wants to enforce the law.
Arbitration agreements may place employees in disadvantageous positions. If you have been presented with an agreement, call the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler so that you might learn more about the rights that you have.