A recently completed five-day arbitration with twenty-one witnesses, reminded me of the upsides of employment arbitrations (especially when I compare my situation to that of my colleagues who are preparing for jury trials in similar cases).
While we have written a lot here about the enforceability of class action waivers in such agreements, there are also many upsides to arbitration for single plaintiff actions, including:
- There is a lot less litigation activity. In our case, we handled discovery disputes with one conference call to the arbitrator. No motions. No extensive hearings. Just a conference call and a ruling.
- Witnesses did not need to appear at the arbitration in person. Instead the parties agreed that many witnesses could appear by video, and we simply linked to them on a computer (often through the employer’s internal system or facetime), and projected them on a large TV monitor. The witnesses could see us with a mobile camera. This resulted in a lot of cost savings (no travel, no witness time waiting in the court’s hallway), and a lot less hassle for the witnesses (although we did have to coordinate to get them exhibits ahead of time).
- The proceedings were a lot less formal, and in fact, the arbitrator (someone both sides selected based on her experience in employment litigation and her temperament) took extensive notes on her laptop.
- During the arbitration hearing, motion practice was limited, and briefed by simple emails to the arbitrator with bullet point arguments, with a ruling by email the next morning.
- There was no jury, which meant a lot less grandstanding and pandering, and a lot more focus on the disputed issues.
I don’t know what the outcome will be. And if it goes against my client it will be much harder to appeal. That is certainly a risk. But even so, the process was much more streamlined and efficient than litigation in the California court system. I suspect the same case would have cost twice as much and lasted at least twice as long if it had been litigated in court.
All the more reason to consider arbitration agreements for your California workforce.