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Mandatory Arbitration Agreements in Employment

Employees are becoming more aware of the rights they are entitled to when they agree to work for an employer. As such, employers are looking for a different method than a trial in which to adjudicate disputes, given that the judiciary is not always sympathetic to their arguments. Arbitration, which is almost always mandatory nowadays, seems to be the chosen successor. However, arbitration can be used in a discriminatory and unethical manner, so if any inappropriate conduct occurs, it is to your advantage if you react accordingly. Learn more about mandatory arbitration agreements in employment, and get help today.

How Arbitration Works

Generally, instead of a jury trial or a bench trial, your dispute will be settled by an arbitrator, whose ruling is not subject to appeal. Also, arbitration generally has rules that restrict the amount of information available to each side, whereas in a court trial, discovery is only limited by the relevant evidentiary law. Both of these factors can be harmful to an employee’s case, because (1) the employer is usually the one with more documentation and information regarding a dispute than the employee; and (2) because juries tend to be made up of average working people more often than not, losing the ability to appeal to a jury’s logic and compassion can be critical. Arbitrations do tend to move quicker than court cases, but that is not always a benefit.

Be advised that the standard arbitration rules of South Carolina do not apply to employer-employee agreements unless specifically agreed to between the parties. If you do elect to use the standard arbitration laws of the state, it is important to understand that South Carolina law explicitly forbids any kind of attempt to renege or back out of an arbitration agreement. Mandatory arbitration agreements in employment contracts (if the state’s arbitration rules are adopted) are “valid, enforceable and irrevocable.”

Do I Have To Sign?

In theory, many South Carolina employers will retract an offer of employment if you fail to sign the arbitration agreement at the time of your hiring. But it is possible that they will not. Some may forego the requirement, while some may permit negotiation of certain terms like choice of arbitrator or venue. If at all possible, trying to negotiate a greater disclosure of information can be pivotally important. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If you do not have access to certain documents or evidence, your case is weakened because of it.

One important thing to remember is that if you face later discrimination from your employer—either because you did not sign the arbitration agreement or you asked to negotiate or due to some prejudice of the employer’s—you may not file suit, but you may still enlist the help of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you sign a mandatory arbitration agreement, it governs your actions. But it does not govern the actions of an agency or governmental entity that involves itself in the matter. The EEOC has publicly issued policy statements condemning such forced agreements, so it is plausible that they may be able to assist you in this regard.

Ask An Experienced Attorney

When you have the possibility of landing a good job, it is human tendency to sign paperwork quickly. If you are having problems with a mandatory arbitration agreement in employment contracts that you believe to be discriminatory, attorney A. Christopher Potts and his North Charleston employment law firm can help.

Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.

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