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Signing certain rights away in arbitration agreements

Employee arbitration agreements usually require that the employee sign a document that gives up his or her right to sue should something go wrong with the job. Common coverage points of arbitration include termination and discrimination; if you believe you were wrongfully terminated or discriminated against and you signed an arbitration agreement, you can't always take the case to court. You can, however, take the matter before a third-party arbitrator.

One disadvantage of an arbitration agreement is the fact that an arbitrator has the final say in many cases. While arbitrators are usually fair in how they treat cases, they might not be as sympathetic to an employee as a jury might. You are usually not able to appeal an arbitration case, either, which means you are stuck with whatever decision the arbitrator makes.

Arbitration is also considered a speedier process than a jury trial. While this means less time waiting on a decision, it also means you have less ability to request documents and evidence. Since the employer likely already has access to most of the evidence, this doesn't always work in the employee's favor.

Speedier processing is a benefit for employees, as is the fact that arbitration proceedings are usually less formal than court proceedings. Both of these facts might help you save some money in legal and court fees. However, whether you should sign an arbitration agreement is up to your individual situation and career goals. Sometimes, refusing to sign an agreement or attempting to negotiate an agreement out of a contract can have negative consequences on your career. Working with a legal professional to understand exactly what is written in a contract can help you decide if signing it is the right move.

Source: FindLaw, "Employment Arbitration Agreements," accessed Dec. 18, 2015

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