When starting a job, the last thing you are thinking about is how it will end. What will your rights be in the event that you suffer discrimination or wrongful termination? Before you sign a contract, remember that many employers will automatically include a “mandatory arbitration” clause in your agreement.
When starting a job, the last thing you are thinking about is how it will end. What will your rights be in the event that you suffer discrimination or wrongful termination? Before you sign a contract, remember that many employers will automatically include a “mandatory arbitration” clause in your agreement. Essentially, this will prevent you from litigating your case and will require you to arbitrate your case not before a judge or jury, but before a private arbitrator. Not only can this be detrimental to your employee rights, it can also prevent you from taking legal action.
In a recent case, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Doherty Enterprises, Inc. (a franchise operator of Applebee’s and Panera Bread restaurants) for including mandatory arbitration clauses in each employment contract. According to the EEOC, the company violated the employees’ right to file discrimination cases. The mandatory arbitration clauses were conditions of employment, requiring any claim involving discrimination or retaliation to be submitted and resolved through binding arbitration.
Effectively, the mandatory arbitration clause in each contract interferes with the employees’ rights to file discrimination charges. Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from patterns or practices of discrimination in the hiring process or during the course of employment. Employees who have suffered adverse action, such as failure to hire, demotion, or wrongful termination, have the right to file a lawsuit in accordance with the federal law. Title VII also gives individuals the ability to seek immediate relief for any misconduct.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that the mandatory arbitration agreement prevents communication between individual employees and the EEOC. Preventing discourse between the EEOC and individual employees also has a chilling effect on the ability of the agency to stop employment discrimination. Without the support of the EEOC, individual employees are often left to fend for themselves in arbitration settings that may favor the employer. According to the EEOC, the mandatory arbitration agreements makes reports and complaints confidential, which can impede federal intervention and oversight.
Though the lawsuit is still pending, the case made by the EEOC could prevent future mandatory arbitration agreements between employees and their employees in Minnesota and nationwide. The employment attorneys at Wanta Thome PLC are experienced in helping employees protect their rights under state and federal employment laws. For more information about the EEOC and mandatory arbitration clauses or your rights, please call 612-252-3570. Our Minneapolis, Minnesota attorneys can help you seek appropriate legal recourse in the event of discrimination, wrongful termination or retaliation.