In a surprising decision, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled in July that not all arbitration agreements are created equally and, consequently, only some of them are enforceable by employers. When it comes to suits under the state’s anti-discrimination law (Chapter 151B), the language in a workplace arbitration clause must be clear and unequivocal. Unless it demonstrates that an employee specifically bargained away the right to sue at the Commission Against Discrimination or in state court, the worker’s lawsuit for sexual harassment, age or race bias, failure to reasonably accommodate, or other discrimination issues may escape arbitration. That means employers will face the far more difficult and expensive task of defending themselves in front of a jury or at the MCAD or its federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The message for employers is clear: review any and all arbitration agreements you entered with your employees and, if you still believe arbitration of discrimination claims is in the company’s best interest, make sure Chapter 151B is specifically referenced. For many employers, [Read more...]