Federal District Court in Georgia Rules that Employee’s Discrimination Lawsuit Should Be Stayed Pending Arbitration

The right to a trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It is important to note, however, that not every would-be litigant will have his or her day in court. While the right to have the issues considered by a jury of one’s peers is non-negotiable in a criminal matter, the same is not necessarily true in a civil case.

In a civil matter such as an Atlanta employment discrimination case, there may be the possibility that the matter will be submitted for arbitration rather than proceeding via the traditional litigation process. This is because an increasing number of employers are requiring employees to sign agreements to arbitrate as a condition of employment.

Generally speaking, employers prefer arbitration over litigation because they believe that the attorney fees and legal costs will ultimately be lower and the outcome is more likely to be pro-employer than if the case is heard by a jury. Of course, each case must stand on its own merits, regardless of whether it is litigated, arbitrated, or resolved in some other manner.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unemployment law case, the plaintiff was a woman who began working for the defendant employer on May 22, 2017. After she filed suit to assert a claim for employment discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the defendant sought to compel arbitration. In support of its argument for arbitration, the defendant pointed to a three-page “mutual agreement to arbitrate individual claims” that was allegedly entered into by the parties on May 24, 2017 (two days after the plaintiff began working for the defendant). According to the defendant, the agreement between the parties created a binding arbitration agreement, such that the proceedings instigated by the plaintiff should be stayed pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act.

The magistrate judge recommended that the district court grant the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration and stay the proceedings. The plaintiff objected to the recommendation.

The District Court’s Opinion

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, overruled the plaintiff’s objection and adopted the report and recommendation of the magistrate. In the court’s opinion, the defendant had met its initial burden of proof insomuch as it had provided a copy of the agreement in question (which showed the plaintiff’s signature) and the testimony of both the defendant’s senior human resources manager and its human resources coordinator, who explained the process of having new hires sign onboarding documents such as the arbitration agreement at issue here. In response to the evidence presented by the defendant, the plaintiff had not met her own burden of showing that there was a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether the parties had, in fact, entered into a binding arbitration agreement. In so holding, the court noted that the only evidence presented by the plaintiff was her own contention that she had “never signed an arbitration agreement.”

In light of the court’s decision, the plaintiff’s cause of action was stayed and administratively closed, pending the outcome of the arbitration. The parties were ordered to provide the court with periodic status updates during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings.

Get Legal Advice About a Potential Employment Law Claim in Atlanta

If you believe that you have been unlawfully discriminated against due to a disability or due to your age, gender, race, or color, you may have a viable claim for employment discrimination. For an appointment to learn more about how our firm can help you in your fight for justice against your employer, please contact the Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert by calling us at 404-873-8048 or using the “contact us” section of this website. A member of our employment litigation team will be glad to explain your legal rights and help you determine the appropriate steps going forward.

Contact Information