Arbitration agreements are a way that employers try to avoid being sued by employees for employment law violations, such as wage and hour violations or sexual harassment. Historically, if an employee or a job applicant signs an arbitration agreement, that person essentially agrees to let an out-of-court arbitrator, rather than a court of law, decide on a wage case or a sexual harassment case. Typically, the arbitration process favors employers, not employees.
However, back in January 2020, employers in California were legally prohibited from requiring job applicants or employees to sign arbitration agreements. The law was initially put on hold by the courts, but now it is in effect in 2022.
What does that mean for employees?
If you started working at a company in California in 2020 or after, and you were required to sign an arbitration agreement, that requirement may be in violation of California employment law, and you may be able to sue your employer in court if your employer violated your rights as an employee.
Additionally, a new federal law prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements regarding sexual harassment or sexual assault. This law applies throughout the country, not just in California.
What does an arbitration agreement look like?
Often employers will include an arbitration agreement along with other documents (a company’s sexual harassment policy, for example) and fail to inform the employee that the arbitration agreement is only voluntary and not a condition of employment. Alternatively, an employer might even overtly say the employee must sign the arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. If this has happened to you, talk to a California employment law attorney about your options.
In many cases, problems like this are not isolated to a single employee. Multiple employees may have been unlawfully required to sign an arbitration agreement.
What is at stake?
If your wage and hour rights have been violated, or if you have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment or discrimination, or if you have been misclassified as a salaried manager or an independent contractor, you may be losing money, and you may be suffering as a consequence. Don’t wait to talk to an attorney and exercise your rights as an employee.
California employment laws offer some of the strongest protections in the world for employees. In fact, California employment laws generally favor employees more so than federal employment laws or laws in other states. However, employees often have to take assertive action to exercise their rights and protect themselves from an employer’s mistreatment. A California employment law attorney can help you do that.
To learn more about these matters, please see the following:
- Our overview of failure to pay wages
- Our overview of workplace harassment and discrimination
- Our overview of employment class actions