Wednesday, July 15, 2009


by David McCarthy

Employees with claims against their employers for discrimination or otherwise can be enjoined from suing in court and compelled to go to arbitration if they have so agreed.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that an employee who filed a race discrimination suit against the national retailer which employed him was properly enjoined from prosecuting the suit and obligated to submit his claims to arbitration because he had agreed to do so in writing when he signed an application for employment.

A contract that requires arbitration of disputes rather than litigation is not illegal. The courts profess to welcome arbitration as an alternative to litigation. For fast decisions and low costs, arbitration has jury trials beat, and the rights and remedies of an employee are in no way diminished or impaired by arbitration.

So one might have expected a unanimous "yes" to the question whether the contract at issue was enforceable. In fact, the vote on the Supreme Court was 5-4, and the justices were aligned exactly as they had been in Bush v. Gore. (Circuit City v. Adams, No. 99-1379).

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