When signing an arbitration agreement with your employer, you are promising to pursue any legal claims against them such as wrongful termination, discrimination, and breach of contracts, through arbitration as opposed to a lawsuit. In an arbitration, your claims are presented to, and decided by an arbitrator as opposed to a jury. Forgoing a jury of your peers is often viewed as a disadvantage for the plaintiff since juries tend to be more sympathetic towards employees. Recently, the Appellate Court Division of New Jersey reversed a trial court’s order to compel arbitration in a wrongful termination case against Jenny Craig, Inc. In the Flanzman v. Jenny Craig, Inc. matter, an 82-year-old employee claimed that that the fitness company harassed and discriminated against them resulting in a wrongful termination.
More than 20 years ago, when that employee started with the company, Jenny Craig had them sign an arbitration agreement. A trial court ruled that any proceedings should follow the agreement, however, this recent appellate court opinion believed otherwise. Their understanding of the matter was that Jenny Craig failed to include significant information pertaining to rights the employee would be giving up. For example, the arbitration agreement failed to mention the kind of forum as well as laying out the process for choosing that forum. More specifically, the arbitration agreement did not indicate that the parties were waiving their right to a jury trial in exchange for another set of rights. The agreement should layout the arbitration process, explicitly showing agreement to waving rights to a trial jury as well as a clear mutual understanding of the consequences of that agreement.
Just because you have signed an arbitration agreement at work does not necessarily mean you no longer have a right to a trial by jury to resolve your dispute. Your arbitration agreement may be invalid because it does not currently include all the proper information regarding your rights. If you have any questions or concerns about an employment matter and would like to know if your arbitration agreement may affect your case, please call Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP for a free phone consultation. We can be reached at (212)300-0375 or you can find additional information on our website.