What do you need to know about employment law arbitration? You have a grievance against your employer. You’ve been through all the proper employment law channels and you’re working with an employment attorney to make sure your case is air-tight. You’ve even begun the employment law litigation process, working toward the time when you can get through the trial, win your case and move on with your life.
But then, in the midst of these carefully-laid plans, your employer’s attorney throws a wrench into the gears, producing a document you signed your first day of work that shows you agreed that all grievances would be decided through employment law arbitration.
You’re Stuck in Arbitration. What Now?
Employment law arbitration is very different from a courtroom trial. In arbitration, one person—the arbitrator—will decide your case. You can’t request a jury, and you won’t be able to appeal the decision. And, while an arbitrator’s decision is legally binding, an arbitrator is not a judge and does not have to follow the same rules an employment law judge in a court of law does. There are a few ethical rules for arbitrators, but beyond those they can even decide how you can present your evidence. Because you have to prove what happened, any limitations on your ability to interview witnesses, request documents or even just gather evidence will hurt your case. And, in most cases, the losing party will have to pay for the arbitration service.
Why Do Employers Want Arbitration?
In addition to being harder to prove your case in employment law arbitration, it has been shown that arbitrators find for employers much more often than employees. Why would this be? Consider this: on one side is a corporation that will probably need the services of an arbitrator again, and on the other is you. In the end, the arbitrator will work much harder to keep the potential repeat customer happy than you. Even if you do win, your award is much likely to be smaller than it would have been in a jury trial.
Employers also prefer employment law arbitration because it’s confidential. Often the fear of publicity will encourage an employer to settle, but in employment law arbitration everything will be kept confidential. The employee loses this tool against their employer.
What Are Your Options?
Unfortunately, there are not many options if you signed the agreement to arbitrate and it’s legally sound, but your attorney may be able to find a reason to challenge the document. Under California law there a few ways that employment law arbitration can be avoided. For example, if the agreement to arbitrate is only in the employee handbook, or if the agreement was not clearly an arbitration agreement, it may not be not be enforceable as a contract. Also, if you’re employer waited too long into your case to ask for employment law arbitration, the court may side with you and not enforce the arbitration agreement.
Arbitration is almost never good for the employee. If you have a grievance at work and believe you need a lawyer, contact us here for a free consultation.