• Paul Peter Nicolai

Title VII & Arbitration Agreements

The EEOC has revoked a 1997 Policy Statement in which it had said arbitration of employment-related disputes was inconsistent with Title VII and other federal civil rights laws.

While a policy statement is not a law, many viewed the 1997 Policy Statement as support for the EEOC’s position that it would closely analyze discrimination charges involving arbitration agreements where those agreements were entered into as a condition of employment and might have been secured by “coercive circumstances.” The EEOC rescinded the 1997 Policy, recognizing it was at odds with numerous Supreme Court decisions holding that employment-related arbitration agreements are generally enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act.

The EEOC said rescission of the Policy does not limit the ability of an employee to challenge a particular agreement. The EEOC also did not address the impact of this on recently enacted state laws restricting mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment or other discrimination claims in states including California, New York, and New Jersey.

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