So, one day your employer asks you to sign a piece of paper that talks about a “dispute resolution” program, including “arbitration.” Perhaps you instead got paperwork talking about arbitration with your onboarding materials when you started a new job. Or, maybe you just got an email from your employer saying you are now subject to arbitration “as a condition of employment.” This article takes a basic look at what these things mean and why seeing them ought to—at the very least—cause you to sit up and think about what your next move should be.
Arbitration is basically a private court. The parties (including employees and employers) agree beforehand to submit disputes to a private decisionmaker or decisionmakers to reach a final, binding decision. Some arbitration programs require the parties to select an arbitrator or arbitrators from a list of candidates associated with a large dispute resolution company like the American Arbitration Association, and might apply rules set by that company. There is no judge or jury, and the ultimate decision may be kept secret. Appealing an arbitrator’s decision can be almost impossible, and the rules of an arbitration may be quite different than those in a court. As a result, employees may have less of an ability to get evidence from their employer. Continue reading ›