It is not uncommon for employees to sign employment contracts that address a number of policies and guidelines prior to starting a job. However, it may be important for New York job-seekers to pay attention to the fine print on these contracts. Increasingly, the contracts prohibit employees from filing a lawsuit against the employer for issues such as violations of labor laws, discrimination or harassment.
Instead of a lawsuit, the agreements specify that disputes in the workplace will be worked out through arbitration. In other words, the issue will be resolved outside of court. Because these clauses are reportedly included in roughly 93 percent of employment contracts these days, many employees find out too late that they have waived their rights to file a lawsuit.
This contractual specification has many people calling for reform based on the unfair advantage it gives an employer. Many times, the arbitrator is hired by the employer, creating a bias against the employee. The process of arbitration can be expensive, too. As opposed to the small-to-nothing fee it can cost to file a claim in court, filing an arbitration claim can cost thousands of dollars.
For now, a person can choose not to sign these contracts. However, there is no obligation for an employer to hire that person, should he or she opt of out signing the agreement. Current changes to the agreements are being proposed, but so far the fine print is legitimate.
Before signing a contract, or before filing a claim in court or with an arbitration association, a person may want to discuss his or her legal options with an attorney who clearly understands New York labor laws.
Source: msnbc, "Have you signed away your right to sue your boss?" Eve Tahmincioglu, March 7, 2012