U.S. Supreme Court Considers Case Limiting Employees’ Protection Against Discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Waffle House, a case that could limit the ability of employees who sign arbitration agreements to get money damages if they are discriminated against by their employer. Last term, the Supreme Court decided that employees who sign arbitration agreements cannot sue in federal court for damages due to employment discrimination, but, rather, must take the discrimination case to arbitration. Yesterday’s case presented the issue of whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the government’s principal anti-discrimination agency may get damages on behalf of a plaintiff who has signed an arbitration agreement.

If the EEOC is prohibited from getting damages for employees, the only place an employee who has signed an arbitration agreement may go is to arbitrator. Employers prefer arbitration to federal court because arbitration is less expensive, there is no jury in an arbitration, and it is very difficult to appeal an arbitrator’s decision. Because of last term’s decision limiting employee access to federal courts, more employers are requiring that, as a condition of employment, employees agree to arbitrate discrimination claims; an pro-employer verdict in this case will increase that trend.


Washington Post, 10/11/2001

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