Do I Need a Lawyer before Signing an Arbitration Agreement?

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution technique used by employers looking to avoid going through litigation. Employees who sign arbitration agreements relinquish their ability to sue for wrongful termination, breach of contract, discrimination, or harassment. Disputes will be settled through the arbitration process by an elected party.

Agreements are signed when someone starts a position; therefore, they are signing away their rights before they know their work environment. Employers can fire someone or choose not to hire them for refusing to sign. Hiring a lawyer before signing an agreement is not necessary. However, once the process begins, working with a lawyer greatly increases the odds of an ideal outcome for the employee.

What are the Advantages of the Arbitration Process?

Arbitration is less formal than a typical court proceeding, so decisions are faster and the process is shorter. Both sides can vote on who they want to arbitrate if negotiated in the contract. In non-binding agreements, the arbitrator can make a recommendation, but not an official ruling. One or both sides may appeal the arbitrator’s decision or go to trial. The arbitration contract only pertains to an agreement with one employer. If someone changes jobs, they will not be required to go through the arbitration process unless they sign a separate agreement with that employer.

What are the Disadvantages of Arbitration?

  • In binding arbitrations, the decision is final; there can be no attempts made to reopen the case in court.
  • There are no rules for evidence, so employees may not have access to any files or documents that could help their case.
  • There is no judge or jury, only a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators, and they are meant to be impartial, so that eliminates the opportunity to rely on emotional appeals.
  • Though the arbitration process is less expensive than a court trial, the employee may suffer financially. In some cases, both parties are expected to split the cost of paying the arbitrators. In addition, if the agreement is binding and the employee loses the case, they could be liable for paying a settlement or possibly lose their job.

What Do I Need to Know before Signing an Arbitration Agreement?

  • Signing the new hire documents, whether the employee reads them or not, means agreeing to all terms, and employers can add restrictions or conditions to agreements that may dictate what claims an employee can try to address or how much control they have in the process.
  • Agreements may be placed within larger contracts, a hiring letter, or an employee handbook rather than being its own separate document and can therefore be easily missed. Employees usually have to sign agreements acknowledging that the handbook was read and that everything made sense to them.
  • Employees have the right to ask to negotiate the terms of the agreement. Each side will be working in their own best interests during the process, so employees will need to know what to ask for and what they are willing to accept.
  • Although employees are agreeing not to sue their company directly, they can still appeal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or another government agency who can investigate and file a lawsuit for them. In New Jersey, employees are protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).

How Would Hiring a Lawyer Help My Case?

  • Experience. Lawyers know what questions to ask and how to present the evidence in a way that makes the best argument. They can translate overly complicated legal language and anticipate potential strategies from the opposition.
  • Defense against unfair advantages. Larger businesses may already have corporate lawyers who specialize in arbitration. Employees having a lawyer on their side may increase their chances of winning.
  • Choice of arbitrator. Employers may choose someone who is more likely to work in their favor if the decision is up to them. Having a lawyer can help the employee fight to help choose the arbitrator to ensure the process remains unbiased.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Will Make Sure No One Takes Advantage of Your Rights

If you are an employee considering signing an arbitration agreement, contact the skilled South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. We work closely with each of our clients to provide compassionate, personalized advice to ensure that they understand their rights and legal options. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.