February 4, 1868 at Nevers





            Bernadette Soubirous                                  


           BIRTH 1844 - DIED 1879






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The Good and Bad of Keeping Disputes Out of Courtroom

March 22 - Arbitration, a long valued tool for companies in resolving disputes with employees, has gained new importance following a high court ruling that employers can force workers into arbitration rather than having to go to court. 

 Many Unfamiliar With Arbitration

Business interests hailed Wednesday's 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which held that companies can enforce employee arbitration agreements. Arbitration has increasingly been used to resolve a variety of workplace disputes, including employment discrimination claims. Employees are often required to waive their right to litigate and use the company's arbitration system as a condition of employment.

Arbitration advocates say employees can also benefit from the agreements. "There are advantages and disadvantages for both parties," said Mark Astarita, a New York securities attorney who has represented employees and employers in arbitration cases. "You wind up with a process that is as fair, with outcomes that, on a statistical basis, are very similar to what you'd get in a courtroom."

Added Astarita: "Some say [arbitration] favors the employer but it's also big plus for the employee because it eliminates one of the advantages that corporations usually have, which is that the company can afford to go to court and worker can't."

But Is Fairness Built In?

"When you go to court, the other side doesn't get to choose the judge. Frequently, the employer chooses the arbitrator," he said, citing a case in which an executive with the Hooters restaurant chain handpicked an allegedly sympathetic arbitrator to settle a dispute with an employee.

Maltby also cited a recent U.S. Labor Department study that found that the majority of employer arbitration plans did not meet minimum due-process requirements. Among the common flaws are provisions denying employees the right to submit evidence in arbitration hearings and prohibitions against the award of punitive damages to workers who win their cases.

Many Employees Unfamiliar With Arbitration

Up to 20 percent of employers in the United States have arbitration plans. But company arbitration plans are varied, and many employers never familiarize themselves with the plans behind the agreements they sign.

"But thousands of arbitration cases go to this cottage industry of arbitrators out there that no one knows anything about," he added.

 EMAIL ADDRESS:  dennis@csnp.com

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