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My Employer Broke the Law – But Do I Get My Day in Court?

by Natalie T. Lorenz, Attorney at Law

A recent trend in the law has been for employers who have been sued by former employees to attempt to keep their cases out of the courtroom – a public forum.  Employers do this by compelling arbitration, which is an alternative method of dispute resolution that takes place in a more private setting.  Many employers, when hiring new employees, make those employees sign an arbitration agreement on or about their first day on the job.  Many times, when they sign such an agreement, the employees do not really have much of a choice, and do not fully understand what they are giving up.  The civil litigation attorneys at Mathis, Marifian & Richter fight for those employees and their right to have a court hear their stories.

 First, an employer cannot simply submit an arbitration agreement to a court and expect the court to order the parties to arbitrate employment claims, rather than keep their dispute in the courtroom.  The court must be satisfied that the arbitration agreement at issue is genuine.  For example, what if the employee’s file does not contain an arbitration agreement at all, but rather, just the signature page?  If the employer has an unsigned arbitration agreement at its office, the employer may attempt to present it to the court as the arbitration agreement that the employee signed.  The attorneys at Mathis, Marifian & Richter compel the employer to prove that the arbitration agreement in its office is the same one that the employee signed.  Without such proof, the employer cannot meet its burden to show that the employee’s case should be arbitrated, and the case will stay in the courtroom.

Second, an employer cannot compel arbitration without showing that the agreement at issue actually applies to the employee’s lawsuit.  The parties to an arbitration agreement are bound to arbitrate only those issues which by clear language they have agreed to arbitrate.  For example, if the employee agreed to arbitrate federal claims, but not state law claims, a state court judge will not order the parties to arbitrate their dispute. 

Other arguments against a motion to compel arbitration may also be available, depending on the facts of each particular situation.  The litigation attorneys at Mathis, Marifian & Richter work to keep employees’ claims in court, where a judge and jury can hear what they have to say, and determine what is fair, in a public forum.

Professional Services Disclaimer:

Please note that the information presented here is as an educational service, and while it contains information about legal issues, it is not legal advice.  No warranty is made regarding the applicability of the information presented to a particular client situation, and the information set forth is not a substitute for original legal research, analysis, and drafting for a particular client situation.

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