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When You Should (or Shouldn’t) Agree to Arbitrate Your New Jersey Employment Discrimination Case

An old saying cautions, “Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.” Along a similar line, it is also extremely important, particularly when it comes to legal matters, to be careful about what you consent to do because you just might be unable to change your mind later. One area in which this can be true is when it comes to entering an agreement to arbitrate your New Jersey discrimination case. Before you agree to arbitrate, settle, or make any major decision in your case, make sure you have first consulted with an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney.

A hair products company’s employee learned this concept in a difficult way in his case. Jang, the employee, filed a complaint against the hair company in 2016, alleging that it had violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Today, many employers include mandatory arbitration clauses in their employment agreements. These provisions say that if you, as an employee, file a certain type of legal claim, the employer is entitled to demand that the case be resolved in arbitration instead of in court. Employees who have these types of clauses in their employment contracts should be sure to consult counsel before bringing legal action. The employer will almost certainly seek to enforce the clause and demand arbitration. However, if the agreement is too vague or too one-sided, you may be entitled to a court order declaring the clause unenforceable, which would allow your civil court case to continue.

Jang had a mandatory arbitration provision in his employment agreement. The clause was unenforceable, though, since it was not sufficiently specific. However, during the process, the employer asked the employee to agree to arbitrate the agreement. Jang said yes but then had a change of heart a few days thereafter. He refused to dismiss the court case and refused to go forward with arbitration.

The employer asked the trial court to compel arbitration of the dispute. The trial court ruled against the employer, but the Appellate Division reversed that ruling, which meant that Jang’s case would be arbitrated, rather than tried. The process of agreeing to arbitrate a case is similar to the process of negotiating a settlement of a dispute, the court explained in its opinion.

The court used a specific example to make its point. If a defendant says, “We offer to settle this case in exchange for a payment to you of $1,000,” and the plaintiff says “we agree to settle the case for $1,000,” the settlement agreement is binding on both sides. That cannot be reversed simply because one party later changes its mind.

Agreements to arbitrate are similar. Once the employee sent out, through his attorney, an email that said “we will proceed to arbitration,” the agreement to arbitrate was binding.

The unfortunate and unfavorable outcome for this employee in this discrimination case is an important “cautionary tale.” It is very important that you make sure that you are certain before you make as important a decision as whether to give up your court case in favor of arbitration.

Wherever you are in the process, if you are seeking to pursue a claim of employment discrimination in New Jersey, make sure you have skilled counsel on your side. The knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been helping workers in this state for many years. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Contract’s Arbitration Provision Doesn’t Stop New Jersey Dancer from Pursuing Her Minimum Wage Lawsuit, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 16, 2017

Third Circuit Allows Employees to Go Forward with Age Discrimination Lawsuit Despite Employer’s Arbitration Policy, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 19, 2017

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