The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court recently issued an instructive decision about arbitration agreements in employment law disputes. The case does not invalidate arbitration agreements – they are protected by both federal and New Jersey law – but it does show that the trend is that arbitration agreements are being construed strictly against the employers which drafted them.
The Skuse Case
In the case of Amy Skuse v. Pfizer, Inc., the Appellate Division invalidated an electronic arbitration agreement used by Pfizer for all its employees. The “agreement” was not on paper, but an electronic “training module.” Employees received an email which instructed them to complete the “electronic training.” Even if they didn’t, complete the training module, the employees would have be deemed to have agreed to the arbitration provision by continuing to work for Pfizer for another 60 days. The module allowed them to scroll past the text of the provision, and did not provide for the employees to indicate their agreement to arbitration, only their “acknowledgement” of the policy. The module then thanked the employee for “reviewing” the policy, but not for agreeing to it.