Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Lawyer Reply: What is an arbitration agreement? Can I file an EEOC charge against my employer if I signed an arbitration agreement? Should file an EEOC charge or get an attorney and sue my boss?
As our employment attorneys have previously blogged about, an arbitration agreement restricts both the employer and employee’s right to file a lawsuit in a court of law, in most circumstances, so that if there are any disputes between an employee and his or her employer, those disputes must go to binding arbitration. Arbitration is codified, or made into law, under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in 1925. The original purpose for the U.S. Congress to pass the act was to create another way to resolve cases without bogging down the ever increasing case loads in state and federal court. (See Can I Sue My Employer If I Signed An Arbitration Agreement? and How Do I Get Out Of My Employer’s Arbitration Clause?)
Our employment discrimination lawyers have also blogged about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which is a government agency enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee based upon that person’s race; religion; age (over 40); disability; gender (including pregnancy); or national origin or because an employee complained about that sort of discrimination. The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination brought against employers. If it finds that discrimination has occurred, it has the authority to file a lawsuit on your behalf, but rarely does. (See Should I File With The EEOC Or Should I Get My Own Lawyer?; Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This First…; Should I File With The EEOC On My Own? No, Get A Lawyer!; Will The EEOC Stop Discrimination Against Me? Unlikely!).
Which leads us to the question, can an arbitration agreement prevent you from filing a claim with the EEOC? The United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, recently examined this issue in EEOC v. Doherty Enterprises, Inc. The EEOC charged that Doherty Enterprises, Inc. violated a section of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the EEOC, Doherty required employees to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement which prevented those employees from filing discrimination charges with EEOC or state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies(FEPAs) or to communicate with and participate in the proceedings conducted by EEOC and FEPAs. The arbitration agreement required employees instead to have all employment-related matters determined by binding arbitration.
Dogherty requested that the court dismiss the EEOC’s lawsuit because the lawsuit was not premised upon a discrimination charge, and because EEOC did not engage in pre-suit conciliation, which is required under other sections of the statute.
The court found that Section 707 permits EEOC to seek immediate relief without the same pre-suit administrative process that is required under Section 706 of Title VII. The court also found that the EEOC is not limited to claims of “discrimination” and “retaliation” and held that under Section 707, EEOC can bring a claim to stop a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights protected by Title VII. The court explained:
The statutory language of section 707(a) provides that the EEOC only needs “reasonable cause” before filing a complaint for pattern and practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights. 42 U.S.C. 2000e-6(a). In other words, section 707 does not require the EEOC to receive a charge, nor does it require conciliation. Moreover, section 707(e) provides that the EEOC must comply with the administrative requirements of section 706 (which includes engaging in conciliation) only when the EEOC is investigating or acting on a charge of discrimination. Indeed, other references within the statute are consistent with an interpretation that conciliation is required in connection with a charge of discrimination and nothing else.
In other words, even if you sign an arbitration agreement, you cannot be prohibited from filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC. While your former employer may be able to enforce the arbitration agreement and compel arbitration, they cannot restrict your access to this governmental agency.
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