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Should you sign an employee arbitration agreement?

Many employers are now asking employees to sign arbitration agreements, often as part of their contract for employment. Sometimes, agreeing to the arbitration agreement is a contingency of employment. At-will employers can even require that existing employees sign such agreements, terminating employment if the worker refuses to sign.

You do always have a choice when it comes to an arbitration agreement, but in some circumstances, the choice may be between having a job or not. While an arbitration agreement does limit your options should you have a dispute with your employer, whether or not you sign can be a personal choice. Only you know if the job is worth giving up those rights.

An arbitration agreement is not necessarily a negative thing for any employee, either. Arbitration agreements usually stipulate that disagreements between the employee and employer will be settled through third-party mediation and arbitration rather than going through courts and trials. In some cases, resolution can be less costly for everyone. And arbitration is supposed to work so that a third party makes a ruling on a case, which means the employee's side of the story should count equally in the decision.

But arbitration doesn't usually offer a chance at appealing a decision. Usually, arbitration agreements state that the decision is final and neither the employee nor employer has appeal rights. If you have a question about any contract with your employer, seeking your own professional feedback can be helpful. If you've signed an arbitration agreement and then have an issue of discrimination or another matter with your employer, it might also be helpful to seek legal advice about whether you can bring the case to court or not.

Source: FindLaw, "Employment Arbitration Agreements," accessed Jan. 01, 2016