final rule published in the December 8 Federal Register provides that the Department
of Defense (DOD) is now barring certain defense contractors and subcontractors
from requiring employees or independent contractors arbitrate sexual assault
or Title VII
sexual harassment claims.
Specifically, the rule implements a provision of the 2010 defense appropriations
act that bars defense contractors from using the appropriations act funds
in excess of $1 million unless the contractors agrees not to require
arbitration of the legal claim as a condition of employment.
In some cases arbitration is a positive alternative to litigation. It is
similar to a private trial without a jury in which you and your employer
select the judge. Rather than going to court, the parties select a neutral
decision-maker and work together to establish procedural rules. Arbitration
may be a quicker and less expensive than traditional litigation.
In other cases, however, arbitration is not the best solution. An arbitrator
may have a very different outlook on a case than a jury. The arbitrator
may not allow the employee sufficient access to documents or witnesses
under the employer’s control. Since the arbitrator is typically
paid by employer, there can be questions about the arbitrator’s
neutrality. And the arbitration hearing, unlike a case in court, is usually
held in private and not subject to public scrutiny.
The Buckley Law Firm believes that arbitration should be reserved for cases in which both sides
want their case decided by an arbitrator.
Here, the final rule barring mandatory arbitration arose out of the highly
publicized treatment of Jamie Leigh Jones, a Halliburton employee who
was allegedly gang raped by other employees while working in Iraq. However
because her employment agreement specified that her only recourse was
arbitration, she was unable to bring criminal or civil charges.
If you are applying for a job or recently accepted one, you should contact
an experienced employment attorney to help negotiate any arbitration clause
and ensure your rights are protected. For more information,
contactThe Buckley Law Firm, LLC.