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New York Court Discusses Arbitration in Employment Discrimination Cases

It is not uncommon for an employer to ask an employee to sign a contract at the onset of a job that defines the terms of employment. It is critical for employees to thoroughly review any contract they are presented with, however, as in some instances, the contract may require an employee to waive certain rights. This was demonstrated in a recent employment discrimination case filed in New York, in which the court ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration based upon the terms of the plaintiffs’ employment contracts. If you suffered discrimination in the workplace, it is prudent to confer with a diligent New York employment discrimination attorney to discuss your rights and your potential avenues for seeking damages.

Factual History

It is reported that both plaintiffs signed employment contracts when they were hired by the defendant, a media company. The contracts included provisions that stated that any alleged violation of federal or state laws that could not be resolved informally would be resolved via arbitration. Ultimately, the plaintiffs filed a joint lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth claims of discrimination on the basis of color, race, and gender. The defendant then filed a motion to stay the lawsuit and to compel the plaintiffs to proceed to arbitration pursuant to the terms of the employment contract.

Determining Whether to Compel Arbitration of Employment Discrimination Claims

Under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), an agreement to arbitrate is irrevocable, valid, and enforceable. As such, the FAA allows a party wronged by the failure to arbitrate an issue pursuant to a written agreement to petition a court for an order directing arbitration to proceed in the manner set forth in the agreement. A party will be deemed to refuse to arbitrate pursuant to the FAA if the party files a lawsuit in a state or federal court.

Arbitration is a matter of contract. Thus, under the FAA, parties can agree to arbitrate certain issues rather than allowing a court to resolve such disputes. A party cannot be forced to arbitrate an issue it has not agreed to resolve via arbitration, however. In determining whether to compel arbitration under the FAA, the court will look at numerous factors, including whether the parties agreed to arbitrate, the scope of any agreement, whether the claims asserted are nonarbitrable by law, and whether there is a blend of claims that fall under the agreement to arbitrate and other claims.

In the subject case, the court found that the employment contracts signed by the plaintiffs contained valid arbitration agreements that ordered arbitration for any dispute arising out of the violation of state or federal law. Thus, as the plaintiffs’ claims alleged the violation of anti-discrimination laws, the court found in favor of the defendant and issued an order compelling arbitration.

Meet with a Seasoned New York Attorney

If your employer engaged in discriminatory acts that negatively affected your employment, you may be owed damages and should speak to an attorney. The seasoned New York employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are skilled at helping parties harmed by unlawful workplace practices to seek damages, and we can help you gather the evidence needed to pursue a favorable result. Our primary office is in Manhattan, and you can reach us there at (212) 227-7070. We also have an office in Garden City, where you can reach us at (516) 880-8170. You can also reach us through our online form to schedule a conference.

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