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Ruling favors plaintiffs in workplace discrimination suits

People with different abilities are protected by universal rights to fair employment and housing. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against potential workers due to appearances or physical health, and employees who require assistance to work may expect management's help in engaging meaningfully with a job.

When disputes arise in the workplace regarding discrimination, mediation or arbitration can serve a valuable role in resolving it. These forms of conflict resolution utilize professional mediators to arrive at a binding or nonbinding resolution for employers and workers.

However, employers cannot compel workers to resolve problems in arbitration as a required alternative to a lawsuit involving workplace or disability discrimination. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently ruled that this rider in employment contracts had procedural and substantive flaws.

The procedural problem is the "take-it-or-leave-it" basis for demanding arbitration. Substantively, the cost-sharing nature of arbitration puts too great a cost for low-level employees to engage in the process of resolving a dispute.

The specific California case also involved a contract that allowed the employer, but not the worker, to seek judicial resolution for specific claims. The right of legal process and representation for workers who feel discriminated against cannot be revoked.

Legal representation is often an advisable step if you feel that workplace discrimination has denied you a job, promotion or proper treatment in the office or on the work site. An attorney will be able to weigh a plaintiff options for mediation, settlements, court actions and other possible routes to resolution.

Source: Workforce, "Employer Can’t Compel Employee to Arbitrate Claim," Mark Kobata and Marty Denis, Oct. 02, 2017

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