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Atlanta Arbitration Lawyer

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One of the beauties of the American judicial system is that you have a constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers. When you file an employment discrimination case, if you can survive all of your employer's efforts to dismiss your case, you'll have the opportunity to tell your story to a jury, and have it decide whether your employer should pay you damages for your case.

But it's not always easy to get to a jury. First of all, it takes time--sometimes a lot of time. In almost all employment discrimination cases, before you can even get into court, you first must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and then wait while the EEOC investigates your claims. When the EEOC gives you a right to sue letter, you then have the right to file your discrimination case. At that point, employers will do their best to try to get your case dismissed, and they have many opportunities to do so. If you survive all these attempts, that's great, but it can sometimes take as long as three years from the time you file your charge of discrimination until the time you finally get to go before the jury. And of course, after all that time, there is no guarantee that you will win your case, and even if you do win, the employer has the right to appeal.

Speak with an attorney about your case.

A Cost-Effective Alternative to Litigation

But don't be discouraged--there are alternatives to litigation. One of these alternatives is arbitration. Arbitration is kind of like a private trial without a jury in which you and your employer get to select your judge. In arbitration, you don't have to go to court to bring your claim. Instead, the parties work together to select a neutral third party (the arbitrator) who will decide your case.

Although there are many variations on the types of rules and procedures involved, the process typically goes as follows:

  • Your attorney and the attorney for the employer will work together to agree to an arbitrator.
  • Once the arbitrator is selected, he or she will work with the parties to set a schedule for the proceedings and work out the applicable rules. Unlike court proceedings, you can establish either detailed or simple procedural rules, such as how much discovery the parties will conduct and how many depositions will be taken. It's a kind of a do-it-yourself litigation that many people find much more satisfying than the process laid down for them in court.
  • Once the ground rules are established, the case will then proceed much like a regular court case, with documents exchanged and depositions taken.
  • When the discovery is done, then the parties will then have their arbitration hearing, which often takes place at the arbitrator's office or the offices of a third-party dispute resolution company, not in court.
  • After the hearing, the parties will sometimes submit briefs, and then the arbitrator will issue his award.

In most cases, arbitration awards are final and cannot be appealed except for certain extraordinary circumstances, such as arbitrator fraud.

Advantages of Arbitration

There are many advantages to arbitration. In most cases, it is:

  • Much less expensive than traditional litigation;
  • The length of the typical arbitration case is usually much shorter than the average court case;
  • You have a say in selecting your arbitrator, rather than being randomly assigned a judge, and you can select someone who has experience in employment related cases; and
  • The case is private--unlike a public courtroom, no outsiders are allowed to view the case, and the arbitrator's award is kept private and cannot report to the press.

Is Arbitration Right for Me?

On the other hand, there are some things to think about before selecting arbitration:

  • In most cases, you won't be able to do as much discovery and take as many depositions as you would in a court case;
  • You will not have a jury to decide your case;
  • The amount of the awards are generally lower than you would get before a jury;
  • Your case will not be in the public eye and, if you want to make a point, alert the media, or set a precedent for future case, you cannot do this in arbitration; and
  • You have a very limited right to appeal an adverse award.

Although there are many advantages to arbitration, not all cases should be arbitrated. Sometimes, a trial is the best alternative. Juries aren't necessarily sympathetic to large corporate employers, and they often feel sympathy for the employee. If you get a sympathetic jury and you have a strong case, you may obtain a large verdict. This type of emotional response is much less frequent in the arbitration setting.

Mandatory Arbitration Clauses

One related issue to watch for is mandatory arbitration clauses. These can be found in employment applications, employment agreements, employee handbooks or policy manuals, or, sometimes during your employment, your employer will ask you to sign a mandatory arbitration clause. These clauses can be dangerous because they can seek to impose unfavorable arbitration rules on you. Although federal law protects against employer-friendly arbitration clauses, it's better to get a good agreement up front than to trust to the courts to knock out a bad one.

Importance of Working with an Attorney

In order to get the most out of arbitration, you should have an experienced Atlanta arbitration attorney by your side to negotiate the arbitration agreement for you and to represent you throughout the process.

At Buckley Beal, we have extensive experience in arbitration, and we know what it takes to get the most out of the arbitration process. We can assess whether arbitration is right for you, or if you should have your day in court.

If you'd like to learn more about arbitration, call us anytime at (404) 471-3725.