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Does forced arbitration have a place in employment law?

The new-hire process is different for every job, but most have at least one thing in common -- paperwork. Wisconsin residents usually must sign documents on topics ranging from dress code to employee conduct when starting a new job, and most do not think twice about doing so. After all, refusing to do so could lead to the offer being rescinded. However, a group of young law students think that this aspect of employment law needs updating.

Arbitration agreements are commonly used by businesses to bar their workers from joining class action suits addressing employment issues. By signing these documents, workers agree to hash out legal issues in private. The process is usually cheaper for both the company and worker, and results are produced much more quickly.

While there are undoubted benefits to arbitration, not everyone is pleased with the forced arbitration that is a condition of many workplaces. Companies can keep legitimate grievances private, keeping the public, other workers and future employees in the dark about serious issues. According to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, forced arbitration also harms low-income workers with smaller claims. For these workers, class action suits may be the only realistic option for taking legal action.

Law students appear to be leading the way against forced arbitration. One young woman pointed out that even those experienced in the field do not always take the time to thoroughly read and understand new-hire paperwork. For the average worker, expecting that he or she fully understands what is being signed might not be realistic.

Arbitration is a useful tool in employment law. In most instances, it is a straightforward process that provides Wisconsin businesses and employees a faster and cheaper option to full-fledged litigation. Still, there are some who believe that arbitration should be an option rather than a forced condition of employment. Regardless of feelings on the matter, newly-hired employees should be certain that they carefully review any documents before signing them. For particularly complicated contracts, it is usually a good idea to seek the guidance of an experienced counsel.

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