If you have a dispute with your employer you may be able to pursue your claim in court. However, many employers now require employees to sign arbitration agreements, or if you have an employment contract it may include an arbitration clause and/or a “choice of law” clause which dictates which state’s laws will apply to your case. An arbitration clause does not bar you from filing a charge with the appropriate agency if your employer has violated the law. For instance, if you have a discrimination claim, you can still file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If you have not yet signed an arbitration agreement, and are asked to do so, you may want to run it by an employment law attorney first. Most arbitration agreements are binding, and they are often to the disadvantage of the employee. You may be able to negotiate for better terms such as an equal say when choosing an arbitrator and the right to legal representation during arbitration. Depending on the size of the business you work for, it may also be appropriate to specify that the employer will bear the cost of arbitration.
Most arbitration agreements are binding, but there are sometimes circumstances or aspects of the agreement which will convince the court to deem the agreement invalid.
Arbitration is similar to a trial, but less formal. It is typically less expensive than litigation. In arbitration, you do not have the opportunity to present your case to a jury. A neutral party, called an arbitrator, hears and reviews the facts and evidence in your case, and makes a decision.
If you have not signed an arbitration agreement, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit against your employer to resolve a dispute including those involving:
- Wrongful termination
- Breach of contract
- Wage and hour
Filing a Complaint or Charges with a Government Agency
In some types of disputes you must file a complaint or charge with a government agency before filing a lawsuit. For instance, in discrimination cases, you must file your complaint with the EEOC before you can sue. After reviewing your case the agency may take action on your behalf, which can be to your advantage if you are bound by an arbitrations clause.
If the agency decides not to take action on your behalf, and you are not bound by an arbitration agreement, you can file your lawsuit after receiving your notice of right to sue from the EEOC.