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Suit on Forced Arbitration to Be Heard

November 06, 2000|Associated Press

A California man's lawsuit alleging on-the-job harassment could set ground rules for when employers can force workers to settle labor disputes through arbitration rather than in court. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today in the case of Saint Clair Adams, who was made to sign a document agreeing to settle any potential labor grievance through binding arbitration before Circuit City Stores Inc. would hire him. The court is reviewing what types of job classifications might fall under such an agreement. Business groups say arbitration is more convenient, less time-consuming and cheaper than lawsuits to settle grievances. Critics say workers forfeit certain rights when they go before a private arbitrator rather than a judge. Appeals often are limited, damages are capped and severe restrictions are placed on discovery, the process by which a worker's lawyer might gather information to buttress the case. How the Supreme Court rules on the case could have sweeping implications for businesses, more of which are using arbitration to settle disputes with workers.

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