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Work: Starting At A New Employer - A Primer

Employment Agreement Arbitration Clauses

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Some employers require that employees sign an agreement stating that any workplace disagreements will be settled in arbitration instead of the courts. It's your choice whether to sign such an agreement.

Arbitration is an informal dispute resolution process in which an independent person or people hear arguments about a dispute, look at evidence, and make a ruling. Arbitration decisions can usually be enforced in court.

From the employee's point of view, the advantage to arbitration is that the informal process may be quicker and less expensive than going to court. The key word here is: "May".

On the other hand:

  • People who start an action in arbitration have less access to evidence in the employer's control.
  • Arbitration is less likely to include an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages over and above actual damages. In this case, punit ive damages are meant to keep an employer from doing wrong again.
  • Arbitration keeps the situation away from the public view. If your position is just, public opinion can help pressure an employer to settle.

Be aware that even if you sign an agreement to arbitrate, if you feel you have been discriminated against in the work place in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar laws, you can also file a complaint with the EEOC or other appropriate agency. That agency will try to work out the problem informally with your employer. If no agreement is reached, the agency can sue the employer because it was not a party to the arbitration agreement. (To learn how to enforce rights under the ADA, click here.)

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