Topic of the Week Forced Arbitration: Be Prepared
Things to consider before signing an arbitration agreement:
- Know what you're getting into
- Ask questions
- Consult and attorney
- Keep a record
- Make cost concerns known
- Tell them your motives
Forced Arbitration: Be Prepared
No employee is legally required to sign an arbitration agreement. However, employers often condition valuable benefits - such as getting or keeping a job - on your "agreement" to submit claims to arbitration which otherwise could have been presented to the public court system. Usually such agreements provide that you have no right to go outside the arbitration system and present your claims to the public courts. In forced arbitration situations, your job may depend on accepting such a provision: your only other choice is to not take the job.
If you've been asked to sign an arbitration agreement, and consent to using arbitration to resolve disputes with your employer instead of exercising your right to use the court system, here are some things to consider before you agree.
Know what you're getting into. You have a difficult decision to make, although it may not matter whether you sign the "agreement" or not. If you continue to work after you are informed that a forced arbitration agreement governs your employment, you may be bound by it, even if you refuse to sign it. If you quit - or if you are fired for refusing to sign the "agreement"- you may not have any grounds to sue. This depends on several factors about your situation. If you do sign it, you will probably be stuck with arbitration as the only method of legal redress for any job related problems.
Ask questions. Ask your employer whether you have a choice to sign the agreement.
Consult an attorney. Have it reviewed by legal counsel to determine whether it's enforceable in your jurisdiction.
Keep a record. Make careful notes of any conversations you have with your employer about modifying or not signing the agreement.
Make cost concerns known. Let your employer know, and document, that you are concerned about the additional costs of arbitration.
Tell them your motives. If there is a way, without jeopardizing your employment, to indicate that you're only signing the document to keep your job, rather than voluntarily consenting to arbitration, then do so. However, you must carefully balance your interest in challenging the policy with your interest in keeping your job, so you may wish to consult with an attorney before taking this step.