In recent posts, we’ve been looking at the topic of arbitration agreements in the employment context, looking first at some of the disadvantages these agreements present to employees, as well as some of the disputes that can arise with respect to them. The disputes we’ve discussed so far have been discussed in the context of state law.
When an arbitration agreement falls under federal jurisdiction, a court may be faced with a motion to compel arbitration. In such cases, the court may decide whether there is a valid arbitration agreement and, if so, whether the dispute falls under the agreement. Federal courts follow state contract law to decide these issues.
Disputes about the validity of an arbitration agreement and disputes about the contract as a whole are decided differently. When the issue concerns the entire contract, an arbitrator is to make a decision, but a court is supposed to decide questions about the validity of an arbitration agreement, unless the agreement says otherwise.
Another issue that can arise with respect to arbitration agreements is whether a party waives its right to arbitration by engaging in the litigation process to a significant degree. The bar for waiver of the right to arbitration is fairly high. In any case, it is an issue that can come up.
The bottom line here is that whenever a dispute arises regarding an arbitration agreement, or any employment agreement for that matter, an employee should work with an experienced attorney to ensure his or her rights are protected. While employers tend to have a leg up in these cases, an experienced attorney can at least ensure that an employee’s interests receive strong advocacy.