Articles Tagged with “New Jersey Arbitration Act”

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New Jersey and Federal law have established a strong legal policy in favor of arbitration. New Jersey’s courts, like the federal courts, regularly uphold arbitration agreements in employment contracts. They have repeatedly enforced these agreements and do not consider them “contracts of adhesion.” This is starkly different than how New Jersey’s courts treat insurance policies, and ignores the long-established legal principles upon which its analysis of insurance policies rests.

Contracts of adhesion are agreements where the two parties have unequal bargaining power, and the party with the greater leverage forces “oppressive or unconscionable” terms on the other. They are often presented on a “take it or leave it” basis. When a New Jersey court finds a contract of adhesion, it will strain to protect the weaker party, whether by construing the agreement against the stronger party, eliminating unfair or oppressive terms, or voiding it in its entirety.

In Martindale v. Sandvik New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that despite forcing an employee at the company’s Fair Lawn plant to give up her constitutionally protected right to a trial by a jury of her peers, the agreement was not “oppressive or unconscionable.”

An employee and employer, especially a large, multi-national corporation such as Sandvik, simply do not have equal bargaining power. There is a large labor pool for employers to choose from, especially in these troubled times. This gives the employer the upper hand. Employers can – and do – tell employees to agree to arbitration or go look for work elsewhere; this is no choice at all for most employees. Indeed, this is all the more true when an arbitration requirement is adopted as a policy after an employee has already started work and is given the choice of either agreeing to arbitration or being out of a job, despite the years, and often decades, invested by the employee.
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Employers commonly require that potential employees sign agreements waiving their right to jury trials and, instead, requiring them to arbitration all disputes arising from their employment. New Jersey and Federal law supports enforcement of arbitration agreements.

Arbitration agreements are controlled by the Federal Arbitration Act and the New Jersey Arbitration Act. In arbitration, a dispute is submitted to a neutral third-party who makes a binding decision.

Although arbitration can be cheaper and faster than litigation, it is more advantageous to the employer. First, a decision is made by a single person (usually a lawyer or a retired judge) instead of a jury, which might be more sympathetic to an employee (especially since the arbitrator will know that the employer drafted the agreement and chose arbitration). In addition, discovery of information between the parties is significantly limited, favoring the employer which has most of the evidence, especially in a suit for wrongful firing. It is also difficult to appeal an arbitration agreement.

It is important to read employment documents presented carefully. People presented with arbitration agreements should seek an attorney’s advice because courts generally enforce arbitration agreements, even though they appear to be contracts of adhesion. A contract of adhesion is an agreement that is presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis by a party with dominant bargaining power. Normally contracts of adhesion are unenforceable. However, in 2002 the New Jersey Supreme Court in Martindale v. Sandvik, Inc., ruled that employment agreements requiring arbitration are not contracts of adhesion.
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