Continued employment is enough to seek arbitration If you sign an arbitration agreement, most of the work-related disputes you claim will not be tried by a jury of your colleagues, but before an independent arbitrator, usually hired and fully paid for the employer. Maintaining employment is enough to impose a new arbitration agreement between an employer and a worker, a Rhode Island District Court judge recently ruled, who disagreed with another Rhode Island district judge. Since the validity of an arbitration agreement is a matter of public contract law, the issue of applicability on the basis of continuation is an issue that the Rhode Island Supreme Court must ultimately decide. The employee worked for many years for a medical center until 2014, when another company purchased the facility. During the transition, the new company held a brief meeting with the employee and three employees and stated that he would become its employee. In addition, he was told that he had to sign three separate documents as a condition of employment: a letter of offer, an arbitration agreement and a code of business ethics. His letter of offer reserved the company`s right to “change the terms of [its] employment . . . .
Anytime. Over the past two decades, it has become increasingly common for companies to require their employees to sign arbitration agreements. These agreements provide that all disputes related to the employment of an individual (including the rights to discrimination or harassment) must be resolved in private arbitration and not in a courtroom open to the public. And as a general rule, these arbitration agreements provide that the arbitrator`s decision is not subject to judicial review, which means that the arbitrator`s decision is final, even if the arbitrator misinterpreted the law or misunderstood the facts. In that conclusion, the judge refused to follow the argument of the other district judge, who wrote a letter of offer and a joint arbitration agreement and decided that the agreement was illusory. The judge also found that even if the arbitration agreement and the letter of offer were read together, the agreement was still applicable because the retention of the employee was a sufficient “legal consideration” (in other words, the employee obtained something in exchange for the signing of the arbitration agreement). The judge relied heavily on Oken v. National Chain Company, a 1981 case in which the Rhode Island Supreme Court found that maintaining employment was a sufficient legal consideration to enforce a contractual agreement. The judge explained that when an employer offers a new agreement, a worker has the choice of continuing to work under the employer`s new conditions or leaving the company. In this case, the worker`s promise to continue working in exchange for the employer`s promise to pay him for the work was sufficient for the new arbitration agreement to be applicable. Britto v. St.
Joseph Health Services. A bill that makes its way through Congress, the Restoring Justice for Workers Act, would completely ban pre-employment conciliation contracts, but it still has a long way to go. Another drawback is that arbitration agreements limit discovery, which is the part of finding the facts of a lawsuit. Your ability to discover emails, policies and other evidence to support your site will be thwarted. And because arbitration decisions often require confidentiality, if a manager has previously discriminated against another employee, you may not know it. For employers, the first step is to check your arbitration rule (preferably with a lawyer) to make sure it complies with the law. Then check your internal procedures to make sure they comply with the law.