When it comes to employee disputes and controversies, many California employees often turn to arbitration to resolve the issue. The process tends to cost less money and time than litigation under the right circumstances. Several companies even include in their contract a requirement for the employee to consent to mandatory arbitration should an issue arise while at work.
Recently, the California state legislature approved a bill that could ban forced arbitration if Governor Newson signs it. While this isn't the first time they've passed this bill, many companies are wondering if it will pass now that Jerry Brown (who vetoed similar bills in 2015 and 2018) is no longer the governor.
One of the main arguments supporters of the bill have is that forced arbitration is much more beneficial for the employer than it is for the workers. As a California employee, you should understand what potential disadvantages you have in this process.
Presenting evidence is harder
Presenting and requesting evidence from both sides works differently in arbitration than it does in the courtroom. You won't get the chance to request as much evidence or documents as you would in litigation. While arbitrators are specially trained in certain subjects and attempt to be unbiased, they often lack the legal experience of a judge or a jury's opportunity to debate amongst colleagues to come to a group decision. Having the ability to request depositions, a discovery process and interrogatories may make the trial longer, but for many workers, it can help make the final verdict feel fairer.
Since the employer is the one in charge, they can change the rules of the forced arbitration rules to benefit themselves. Many California companies often rely on their workers not reading the agreement before signing their contract so they can restrict certain rights they would normally have such as selecting an arbitrator and their right to an attorney. Make sure you read the agreement closely before you decide to sign it and bring up any concerns you might find on it to an employment law attorney and your employer to see if you can negotiate the terms.
The majority of arbitration cases have not allowed the worker to appeal the arbitrator's final decision. This can be especially frustrating for workers who experience the severe limitations of the process. Not only do they not get a second look at their issue, but because the case was private, the rest of the company's staff are completely unaware of what happened. Depending on the nature of your case, you may want your coworkers to know what the lawsuit was about so they could take it as a warning.
As California officials continue to debate whether forced arbitration is ethical or not, you should speak with a local employment law attorney to understand the conditions of your agreement should any issues arrive at the workplace.