The Basics of Arbitration
Arbitration agreements can have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to enforce their legal rights in the workplace. Unfortunately, many workers are unaware of what arbitration is, whether their employment disputes are subject to arbitration, and how arbitration can affect them. At CBPH, we handle arbitration regularly and help employees navigate the murky waters that arbitration can bring.
What is arbitration?
Simply put, an arbitration agreement is an agreement between an employee and an employer to handle any legal disputes in the workplace outside of the traditional court systems. Instead of filing a lawsuit and having a case heard before a judge and jury, arbitration agreements direct employees to file claims to a neutral arbitrator, who acts as a quasi-judge and jury.
What is an arbitrator?
Arbitrators are simply lawyers, who usually have specific expertise in the field of law that is at issue in the dispute. Arbitrators are licensed by the South Carolina Bar Association and are charged with acting as neutral decision makers to help resolve the dispute. In an arbitration action, employees may face a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators who vote to make group decisions.
How could arbitration affect my case?
Unfortunately, historical data shows that arbitration is disadvantageous to an employee seeking justice for unlawful employment practices. At arbitration, employees do not have the benefit of a jury, who are generally everyday workers themselves, who may be more sympathetic to an employee’s claim than a veteran arbitrator. Arbitration also imposes additional difficulties in securing documents, records, and testimony from employers. Historically, employees who do not navigate arbitration carefully are likely to receive less in a settlement or an award through the arbitration process than they would if they were able to file a traditional lawsuit. Arbitration also severely limits an employee’s right to appeal an unfavorable decision in their case.
Do I have an arbitration agreement?
This question can be trickier than one might think. It is important that employees determine whether they are subject to an arbitration agreement before accepting a job and before filing a lawsuit. Employers often place arbitration agreements among routine onboarding paperwork, training documents, click-through digital agreements, or within employment handbooks that often get glossed over by new workers. Luckily, even in cases where an arbitration agreement may appear to exist, that agreement may not always be valid or enforceable.
Arbitration agreements are subject to judicial scrutiny and invalidation just like any other contract. There are dozens of ways to render an arbitration agreement ineffective. Arbitration agreements may be held to be too ambiguous, the result of fraud, or beyond the scope of an employee’s current dispute. Despite the overall numbers, it is possible for an employee to get great results from arbitration, so long as the employee carefully navigates the rules and obstacles that arise in the arbitration process.
What can I do if I’m concerned about Arbitration?
At CBPH, we help employees navigate the tricky world of arbitration. We regularly help South Carolina workers:
- Determine if they are subject to an arbitration agreement,
- Fight the enforcement of any potential arbitration agreement, and
- Get best-case results from arbitration proceedings.
If you’re concerned about an arbitration agreement, reach out to our firm to get a reliable opinion and representation for your case. Arbitration represents inequality for South Carolina workers, and we stand eager to challenge that wrong and champion your rights.