Should I waive my right to a court or jury trial and use a third party arbitrator for any issues that may arise between myself and my employer?

The corporation I work for is incorporating a new process for management arbitration. It uses an independent third party arbitrator, which the corporation has picked, that should speed up the process and reduce costs. If I agree to this, then I waive my right to any court or jury trial. I do have the option to opt out and retain my right but I fear unwanted consequences, although they say none would happen. Should I agree or opt out?

Asked on December 6, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no way to say "whether" you should do this or not--that depends on your balancing of costs and benefits.

As you note, the arbitrator, picked by the company, is likely faster and less expensive than a court. On the other hand, as it is picked by the company, it is fair to wonder about the arbitrator's fairness or lack of bias--it is natural for even the most fair-minded person to lean in favor of the one who pays him or her. Moreover, experience suggests that institutionally arbitrators, who generally come out of a corporate or corporate law background, will tend to be sympathetic to the company, even without actual bias.

If you submit to the arbitrator, you will give up certain procedural rights, appellate rights, and other rights to protect yourself from a streamlined process that, arguably even if not certainly, will be biased in favor of your employer.

On the other hand, if you do not currently have an employment contract protecting your employment, your employer would be entitled to transfer, demote, or even terminate you, inasmuch as you'd almost certainly be an employee at will, if it chooses--such as if you  do not sign the agreement. Thus, you have to weigh the possibility of drastic consequences now against the possibility of a loss of rights in the event of dispute--a dispute which may never happen.


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