If you are about to start a new job and are going through your employment paperwork, you might have found forms requiring you to agree to arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit. Many companies are trying to steer employees toward arbitration because of the relatively speedy resolution and lower costs when compared to lawsuits. However, companies have also been trying to get every dispute to be solved through arbitration—including workers' compensation claims—and that can mean lower awards and a lower chance of winning. Before you sign, do a little more investigation before taking that job.
Why the Concern?
In arbitration, there is no appeal. You're heard by an arbiter who is usually fair and unbiased, but the decision is final. You also can't require as much documentation and evidence from the other party in the arbitration, meaning that if you can't get some documentation yourself, you might not be able to request it of your employer.
Your State's Stance on Workers' Comp Arbitration
This sounds like a complicated task, but all you need to know is if your state's workers' compensation laws forbid or allow workers' comp claims to be decided in arbitration. For example, California specifically excludes workers' compensation from arbitration no matter what a company wants. There was a case recently in which a New York court decided a dispute over workers' compensation payments should go through arbitration even though the company was in California, but this was partly because the case in question originated before California's no-arbitration statute came into effect. However, the lesson to take away from this is that different court rulings can affect cases, especially if the Federal Arbitration Act applies.
Careful Reading and Clarifications
Telling a worker who is about to start a new job that they simply shouldn't sign an arbitration form is easier said than done. Not signing could mean you don't get the job. But if it's a job where having to use workers' comp is a real possibility, read that arbitration form carefully. Some may say that all disputes have to go through arbitration, while others exclude workers' compensation.
You may want to bring those forms to a workers' compensation attorney to ensure that you know exactly what you're signing. If you've already signed the form and are now facing arbitration, speak with a lawyer anyway to find out the best route to adequate compensation for your injuries.
For additional information, reach out to law firms like the Law Office of Joel A. Santos.