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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 739978  
Subject: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 2:34 PM
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I am facing a bit of a workplace dilemma and would appreciate your perspectives.

About 4 years ago, the law firm where I work implemented a rule that all new employees needed to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition to being hired. Existing employees (of which I was one) were requested to sign as well and were induced to sign with the promise of one extra vacation day (just for that year--not on a yearly basis). I didn't sign.

During the years, we have periodically been requested to sign, and I never did.

This year, a message was sent out stating that a change was made to the arbitration agreement, and we all needed to sign the update. I responded by simply stating that I had never agreed to an arbitration agreement and I would therefore not be signing the update. Several people in management have reminded me to sign it since, but I politely refused.

Yesterday one of the partners (John) (with whom I have an excellent relationship and highly respect), called me in his office and closed the door. It was a long conversation, but basically he said that only 6 people have not yet signed the agreement. He wanted to know why I haven't signed. I said that I would need to see an attorney before I signed it, and I didn't want to give up any of my rights. "I'm an attorney," he said. Right--we both know there's a huge conflict of interest here. Anyway, to make this story as short as possible, he told me in effect that it's not like I couldn't sue the firm if there was a problem. I still could. It's just that it would be resolved by arbitration. It's a good remedy for both of us. He even went so far as to say that you wouldn't want a jury anyway because it's composed of people who were too stupid to think up a good excuse, although he acknowledged that it's getting harder to get out of jury service. He reminded me that I have enjoyed good raises and bonuses at the firm in the past and that I don't want to be branded as uncooperative or a troublemaker. Even if I were, he assured me that he would protect me, but there's only so much he can do.

Essentially, I'm being told that if I don't sign, I won't be fired, but it could affect my future raises and bonuses and cooperation from management on issues that are important to me. The message I'm receiving is: "Sign this and life here will be good. Don't sign it and it could have an impact on your otherwise rosy future here."

I am in an IT position at the firm, and I work on quite a few important projects, including one for John. I know I could be replaced, but I'm sure they would much rather I stay, as I am a very hard worker with knowledge that will take 6 months to a year for someone else to acquire. The staff likes me, and I know management does, too (so far).

My general viewpoint on this kind of thing is not to give up any of my rights. We are forced to give up rights and conform in so many ways in society, that when I have the chance, I don't easily sign my rights away. Of all people in the firm, I am not likely to sue them, and I think they know that. I like this firm, and they have generally been fair with me. I'm not fully understanding why my signature on this piece of paper is so important to them. Would it save them money on malpractice insurance if they can say that all of their employees have an arbitration agreement? Are they just exercising power over me? I also don't know if they are legally allowed to force me to sign this paper. Can they legally fire me if I don't? It's also occurred to me that they might ultimately treat me better as long as I don't sign the agreement, since they might be more worried of the consequences.

I think it's so ironic that an agreement about disputes is causing a dispute!

I'm close to FI, so if they fired me, it wouldn't have a significant economic impact on me. However, I would prefer to leave on my own terms. The options I am considering are: (1) not signing and going about business as usual; (2) giving in and signing since I will likely never sue them (which is probably what all the other sheep are doing); or (3) refusing to sign and leaving the firm now, since there's no point in staying somewhere that could brand me as a troublemaker and punish me.

What would you do?

- Gruberman
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Author: ataloss Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46524 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 2:46 PM
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baa

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Author: dcoleman87 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46525 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 2:46 PM
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What would you do?

I would have my own, outside attorney review the agreement. Find out precisely what rights the agreement grants to the firm and to you. Have your counsel provide examples i.e. if ________event, then________result.

Then ask yourself - what is the likelihood of an event that would produce a negative result for you. If the probability of such an event is low, then your risk is low. OTOH, the risk of stagnant wages / lost bonus may be high.

Have an ubiased appraisal of the agreement, a good understanding of what it means in practical terms, and make a final choice based upon probability (likely or unlikely) and risk (high, medium or low).

D



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Author: twocbock Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46528 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 3:30 PM
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Gruberman,

I am extremely uncomfortable with the pressure you are being given. I have worked at a number of Silicon Valley law firms in the past (I'm not an attorney; I am a paralegal), and haven't had to sign an agreement such as this.

The fact is:

1. The law firm wouldn't have instituted something like this unless it was to their benefit. It could be something as small as being subtle pressure on disgruntled employees that they cannot sue or it could be something more. Given that it is a law firm, it is probably something more. Perhaps it works to their benefit on their insurance premiums.

2. At least in Silicon Valley, finding good IT people to work for the wages that law firms are willing to pay, can be extremely difficult. As you have found in a subtle way, lawyers believe that life in the law firm is their sandbox and you will follow their dictates. And it is, after all, their business and their butts on the line. But it means that the big chunks of money go to the attorneys and money to everyone else can be a bit more, um, whimsical.

3. Once again we have the example of a lawyer being the WORST person in the world to conduct employee relations. To even imply that your livelihood will be affected by the "voluntary" signing of this arbitration agreement is so egregious, it is amazing!! I find it stunning that he would stoop so low.

4. You can certainly pay to have an outside attorney review the document and give you some advice. However, bear in mind, that the legal profession is very incestuous and it might be difficult for someone to review a document such as this and give you the bottom line. If your firm finds out that the outside attorney criticized the form and requested substantial changes, it could affect the outside attorneys livelihood. Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic. Perhaps not.

Given that you are close to FI, given that you are in a profession that, despite the downturn in the market, is in high demand, and even given that it is unlikely that you would sue the firm, I would not sign. Other than threats, you have been given no good reason why it would benefit YOU to sign the agreement. It certainly is possible that you will now be branded a troublemaker, so you might want to look at your options outside the law firm.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

twocbock

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Author: Helter Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46529 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 3:36 PM
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I say: sue them for putting pressure on you to sign the agreement. That'll teach em!

and if not that - quit - tell them to stick their agreement up their a**.

Get a higher paying job - it shouldn't be hard - and thank them for improving your livelihood by threatening you.

Helter.

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Author: rgpeters Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46530 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 3:44 PM
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This was a delicious question you posed. So many bits of seemingly disconnected information knotted into a situation whose solution is not obvious. So I'll toss my two Abe Lincolns into the kitty and see what you think.

Facts:
You are committed to the principle of preserving your rights.
You don't want to sign a document that potentially relinquishes some of these rights.
This stance is unpopular within your company.
You are being leaned upon to sign, with subtle (not so subtle?) inferences to future raises/promotions being in jeopardy.
You are a valuable member of this company, and replacing you would be tough but not impossible.
**This is the most important**
You are nearing ER (from a financial standpoint only). Though the timeframe for FI was not disclosed, this is a powerful trump card you have at your disposal.

I think your solution should be governed by your timeline to FI. The leverage they're using is stifled bonuses and raises.

If your time to FI is one to two years, their leverage doesn't have nearly the impact as it would if you were to remain for four or more years. I mean, so what if they don't give you a raise or a bonus this year (or even next year) if you can FIRE yourself within that time. BUT, By the same token, if you had to remain employed for maybe three or more years (in order to attain FI), their leverage is more significant as it could delay your time to FI.

You know what? I've read many of the posts here, and there are several examples of people on this board who were FIRE'd by their companies just a little bit before they were "ready", and many of those people say it was the best thing that happened to them. It was as though it was the jumpstart they needed to "take the plunge" into ER. The situation sounds eerily similar to those.

This is easy advice for me to dispense, because I'm not walking a mile in your shoes, but men and women of character who stand for something don't grow on trees. Stick to your guns and take a stand for your principles.

I do sincerely mean this......Good Luck.

Greg




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Author: brewer12345 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46531 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 3:47 PM
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Depending on how close to FI you are I can see two courses of action:

- If you are close, don't sign. Sweep it under the rug, plug along and retire when you are able. If they give you a hard time, harass you or dismiss you, sue the sh!t out of them.

- If you have a ways to go, indicate that you are willing to sign - for the right price. Money cures a wide variety of ills, in my experience. Let them cross your palm with silver if its that important to you. If they won't and they are still pressuring you to sign, see the first option.

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Author: justpatrick Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46532 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 3:49 PM
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Depending on how big the law firm is and the method they are using to figure out who has signed and who has not, you might try to convince them that you have already signed.

Ways to do that...

1. Put a copy of one that someone else signed in your file.

2. Figure out how they keep track (spreadsheet? secretary?) and modify their data. hehehe

3. Just tell him that you have now signed it twice and can't understand why they keep coming back to you with it.

4. Sign it and then later that night go into your records and...uhm...borrow it.

5. Take a copy of the agreement that they give you and "review" it overnight. Use their agreement to create a new agreement that looks the same, but has a few words changed. Sign your new version and turn it in. :)

Interesting that you are in IT at this firm and this little thing worries you. I'd sign the thing. The absolute last person in the world that you want on your bad side is some IT person. mwhahaha (evil grin)

justpatrick

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Author: warrl Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46536 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 4:07 PM
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Hm... you're close to FI?

Ask them to make it worth your while to sign it, with a nice bonus...

then sign the form, deposit the check, and the next day give them notice...



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Author: GringoFool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46537 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 4:10 PM
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My decision would be to go ahead and sign. As you said:
Of all people in the firm, I am not likely to sue them, and I think they know that. I like this firm, and they have generally been fair with me.
I've also had good employers and can't imagine wanting to sue.

I also think that arbitration is a better way to settle disputes than a lawsuit, so I don't believe you're really giving up anything important.

Finally, you also say that:
I'm close to FI, so if they fired me, it wouldn't have a significant economic impact on me. However, I would prefer to leave on my own terms.
So you can sign, and if (what seems to be a remote possibility) conditions suddenly worsen and the situation starts to look untenable, you can quit and leave on your own terms, long before either arbitration or lawsuits would be needed.

Just MHO, your mileage may vary.

GringoFool
Avoiding lawsuits and arbitration since 1902

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Author: rjm1 Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46545 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 6:16 PM
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I am facing a bit of a workplace dilemma and would appreciate your perspectives.

If you can sue after arbitration then I would probably sign.
Might consider a time limit. If arbitration not completed in 90 days you can sue.
Also it should be a two way street. They can not sue you until they go to arbitratiom

Arbitration maybe to your advantage for a "small" problem. Trying to hire an attorney to sue maybe harder and more expensive than you think.

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Author: clifp Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46548 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 6:52 PM
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It seems me that arbitration would be a better solution than suing a law firm. Have you ever seriously considered suing an employee? if so don't sign if no, sign it. It sucks when companies put pressure on you to give up rights, but I don't think this one is worth losing sleep over.

Clif

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Author: uglierthenme Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46550 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 7:07 PM
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Talk about ironies. You have a law firm whose employees are educated to defend individual rights that has decided to decrease their own possible liability [insurance=cost] by selling their principals for a buck. If you were able to locate someone who cared to defend this I'm sure the line logic is how good this is all. Guess who was thought of first ?
As to what I would like to do and what I would do---.
Like to.
Tell them to take a hike. The hypocrisy and the disrespect displayed in this situation convinces me that this firm is no longer values nor trusts me . For this reason I will tender my resignation . Or ; if pressure continues you may expect legal action will be pursued.
I'm guessing what I would do.
Consult with an attorney for a legal opinion as to what rights [if any] would be relinquished if you sign. By signing do you relinquesh all rights to court action ? To what extent can your employer pursue with real or implied threats. I'm sure there are other questions on previous posts and many of your own. After gathering this information then you could make a informed opinion.

As a personal aside. I don't have the articals at hand but such agreements , are becoming increasingly common . A question of liabiliy[$$$] is a major concern and if it's a choice between restricting employees rights and a real/imagined threat of a lawsuit, it's no contest. I would certianily discount any feelings of loyalty to zero.
Feelings of kinship toward coworkers and loyalty to a business are not synonymous.

Do you wish you well and sounds as if you're getting out at a good time ; be it now or in the near future. One more downer ; it's only going to get worse.

Wish you well and please keep us updated.



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Author: ataloss Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46552 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 8:39 PM
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To expand on my previous answer,

They can't make you work for them if you don't want to.
They can't make you work overtime if you don't want to.
They can't make you work weekends if you don't want to.
They can fire you- but you are near FI and have skills that are in demand so it wouldn't
exactly be a disaster.

You can stand up for your principles and spend the rest of your time at the firm trying to
decide if you are subject to some sort of disfavor.
You can't (most likely) beat a law firm in an employment case. They have the advantage of
free legal services and the ability to stonewall for years.
Alternatively you can submit like the rest of the sheep and secretly bear a grudge toward
the firm as you look toward FIRE and explore the possibilities for work elsewhere.

I vote with the sheep.


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Author: DeliLama Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46554 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 8:48 PM
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Given that you're so close to FI, you should walk into John's office, shake hands and apologize for not being a team player and that of course you'll sign the agreement... but your own attorney has recommended that you only sign on the condition that all partners in the law office sign your agreement which is as follows:

A G R E E M E N T

The undersigned parties agree jointly and severally to the following terms of arbitration, should such matters arise as the condition of other applicable agreements, including Exhibit A.

Each signee agrees to wear the attire described below during any and all meetings, conferences, depositions, and other gatherings in which arbitration is discussed, conducted, concluded or otherwise carried out. Each party of the arbitration shall have the right to have present both an attorney and professional or amateur photographer of their own choice for the express purpose of photographing the event without hinderance or obstruction.

The attire worn by the undersigned shall consist of all of the items listed below displayed prominentlyat all times without covering,

1) A white jumpsuit with visual spectral absorbsion of less than 10% containing at least 1,024 colored circles ("Dots") of not less than 1" in diameter and not more than 2" in diameter prominently displayed. 256 of these colored circles shall be colored bright red. 256 of these colored circles shall be bright yellow. 256 of these colored circles shall be bright blue. 256 of these colored circles shall be bright green. The Dots shall be arranged such that the outer circumference of any Dot is not less than 1" from any other Dot, and that any one square foot of material contains at least 5 dots of each of the aforementioned colors.

2) said jumpsuit shall be festooned on the front with 5 bright red buttons no smaller than 4" in diameter and no larger than 6" in diameter equally spaced vertically along the center line of said jumpsuit (see diagram 1).

3) a frilled neckpiece consisting of starched white cloth extending at least 6" from the neck itself in overlapping folds of not more than 4" in height and not less than 2" in height (see diagram 2).

4) at least 2 cubic inches of bright red material must be attached to the nose such that the most forward part of the nose is completely covered by this red material (see diagram 3).

5) a hat must be worn at all times consisting of a right circular cone of height 1' 5" and base diameter chosen to fit snugly about the head of the wearer. Said hat must be of the same color white as said jumpsuit and may, at the wearer's choice, also include up to 57 colored circles as described in 1) above.

6) shoes must be worn on both feet of size no less than 35 standard US footwear size units. Said shoes must be bright red with black laces.


...well, you get the point.

DeliLama



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Author: golfwaymore Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46558 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/26/2001 11:04 PM
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Yesterday one of the partners (John) (with whom I have an excellent relationship and highly respect), called me in his office and closed the door. It was a long conversation, but basically he said that only 6 people have not yet signed the agreement. He wanted to know why I haven't signed. I said that I would need to see an attorney before I signed it, and I didn't want to give up any of my rights. "I'm an attorney," he said.

A few points from an X-John, of sorts...

1. Make sure to take good notes every time you have meetings with John. Make sure John sees you taking notes. I bet John hates it when people take notes.

2. Tell John that if you've learned anything working around legal folks, it's that you dont sign documents which you dont entirely understand. Being a good attorney, I'm sure he'd understand such matters.

3. Ask John if any of his attorney buddies with other firms might give you a written legal opinion on the pro's and con's of the document, free of charge.

4. If you cant get a free legal opinion, ask John if he'll spring for it if it's that important to him. Tell John that if after getting an opinion, that you dont agree to sign, that you'll pay for the opinion. Could be money well spent.

5. If you get a professional opinion on the document and you're comfortable, sign it & forget about it.

6. If you get a professional opinion on the document and you're not comfortable, dont sign it. Draft a memo, with the attached legal opinion and state why you dont feel comfortable.

If all else fails, you could do what plenty of my former employees did and bend over to pick up a pencil and feel a sudden sharp pain in your back that requires medical attention as a worker's comp claim, of course. <grin>

Golfwaymore,
Who knows all to well that the employee really has the upper hand



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Author: janicedowden One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46562 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 12:27 AM
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Recommendations:

Depending on how close to FI you are I can see two courses of action:

- If you are close, don't sign. Sweep it under the rug, plug along and retire when you are able. If they give you a hard time, harass you or dismiss you, sue the sh!t out of them.

- If you have a ways to go, indicate that you are willing to sign - for the right price. Money cures a wide variety of ills, in my experience. Let them cross your palm with silver if its that important to you. If they won't and they are still pressuring you to sign, see the first option.
***********************
I AGREE WITH ABOVE.

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Author: CAMobley One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46565 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 2:21 AM
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Note: this varies A LOT from state to state. Consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction.

Did you say whether they were asking you to agree to BINDING arbitration? If so, you're giving up something important. The arbitrator's decision is entered as a judgment and can be enforced like any other judgment.

If it's NONBINDING arbitration (or if your state doesn't allow binding arbitration), then probably not any big deal. Around here, you'll get sent out to presettlement conferences anyway at some point. In nonbinding, you arbitrate, you don't like the decision, you can still file suit.

Talk to a lawyer in your state to determine mountain/molehill reality.
Cyn

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Author: brewer12345 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46574 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 9:59 AM
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FWIW, my enormous professional svcs employer periodically sends out an e-mail trying to get us heretics to sign some damn fool thing. Its been a while, so I can't remember if its an I-won't-sue or a non-compete or something else. Every time the e-mail comes around they always cite that signing is mandatory and some ridiculously high % of the sheep have already done so (so souldn't YOU follow the crowd too?).

Every time it comes around, I have that old delete button ready. If my superior eventually sits me down, I will ask why they are doing this and how important it is to them that I sign. If its real important or I get a wishy-washy response, I'll ask for a dollar figure of its importance. If they aren't interested in buying my compliance. I ain't signing. The firm needs me more than I need them.

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Author: markr33 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46576 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 10:06 AM
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I also think that arbitration is a better way to settle disputes than a lawsuit, so I don't believe you're really giving up anything important.

I generally agree with this sentiment, except when it is an attorney on the other side of the table !


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Author: GringoFool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46578 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 10:31 AM
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I said:
I also think that arbitration is a better way to settle disputes than a lawsuit, so I don't believe you're really giving up anything important.

Markr33 commented:
I generally agree with this sentiment, except when it is an attorney on the other side of the table !


But if you go to arbitration, the guy deciding is a third party (who may be a lawyer, but not necessarily). I would still think it's better than trying to press a suit against a law firm.

But I'm still trying to understand how widespread the need to sue (or arbitrate) an employer really is. Maybe I'm real naive about this (as I was about registering on websites) but in all my life I've only personnally known a couple of people who sued employers, and they were both jerks who really didn't have (obviously, IMHO) a reason or a case to do so. However, as I said in my original post, maybe I've just been lucky to have worked for a couple of good firms who generally treated their employees well and never gave employees a reason to sue. Maybe we need someone to set up a poll to see how many people have ever sued, arbitrated, thought they wanted to sue, never felt the need, etc.

I still think we're overblowing the importance of the issue.

I also find it interesting how many people quickly recommend that the original poster quit his job. IIRC he liked his job, was well paid and had been receiving good bonuses, was well liked by the firm, and had been there a number of years. Good jobs like that don't exactly grow on trees (note the number of people on this board alone who commonly complain that they can't wait to FI/RE because they dislike their job) and I wouldn't be so quick to chuck it over some policy that I don't believe I would ever be directly affected by. It's not like he already sees a situation at work which leads him to believe he will need to sue in the near future.

Just MHO and your mileage may vary,

GringoFool



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Author: brewer12345 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46581 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 10:51 AM
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But I'm still trying to understand how widespread the need to sue (or arbitrate) an employer really is.

*****************

Its not that I am likely to sue my employer, or go work for a competitor, or anything like that. There are two problems here. One is that we have coercion going on and that's never a positive. When I am being leaned on it is really hard for me to consider it a "good job." My first inclination is to dig in my heels (generally around the region of the opposing party's crotch). The second red flag is that once you sign away your rights to fight back, the employer has a much easier time messing with you because they know its that much harder for them to get hit for transgressions. If a bank didn't have vaults, guards, etc. don't you think they'd be robbed more often?

Remember, just because you work there doesn't give the purchaser of your labor the implied right to take what they please and do as they wish with you.

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Author: twocbock Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46584 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 11:15 AM
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. . . I wouldn't be so quick to chuck it over some policy that I don't believe I would ever be directly affected by. It's not like he already sees a situation at work which leads him to believe he will need to sue in the near future.

GringoFool,

You raise some very good points. I think the point that hit my radar was the insistence of his employer's that he sign this policy. If the likelihood of an employee suing is miniscule (and who would know better than lawyers?), why does this law firm feel so insistent that this policy be signed by every single employee? After all - these are lawyers, they know their way around courts, they aren't intimidated when someone yells "I'm gonna sue you!!" So their insistence that he (a good employee that they are quite happy with) sign the arbitration policy raises suspicions in my mind - which may not even be valid. It is most likely a method that their insurance company has insisted on that would lower the law firm's premiums is 100% of the employees signed the policy. Why would that be so difficult to explain to employees? I don't find that such an awful reason - if that is the reason. But absent a clear, valid reason as to why all the employees should sign the policy (other than "we want you to"), the whole episode smells.

twocbock




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Author: poppyhead Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46590 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 12:09 PM
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"DeliLama added to your Favorite Fools list."

I haven't laughed so hard all week. I thank you.

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Author: SuperDude One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46594 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 1:30 PM
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Yesterday one of the partners (John) (with whom I have an excellent relationship and highly respect), called me in his office and closed the door. It was a long conversation, but basically he said that only 6 people have not yet signed the agreement. He wanted to know why I haven't signed. I said that I would need to see an attorney before I signed it, and I didn't want to give up any of my rights. "I'm an attorney," he said.

What I find funny about all of this is that lawyers are asking you to sign an agreement that would prevent them from going to court in the case of a dispute! Since when do laywers want to cut down on their workload...

... there is definitely something very wrong about all this.


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Author: twocbock Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46597 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 1:50 PM
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Since when do laywers want to cut down on their workload...

When they don't get to bill anyone for the work!!

twocbock


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Author: cfofool Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46599 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 1:56 PM
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My take from a corporate fool.

The law firm is very aware of potential employee litigation, especially sexual harassment. They are probably now renewing their employee practices insurance and because they have indicated that all employees have agreed to arbitration already to their insurer, they now need to make it so.

They only have six employees who haven't signed, maybe two lawyers (older probably and worried about being forced out?), probably two administrative assistants who might like to keep the threat of a lawsuit alive (and maybe should), and two free thinking folks (like our poster) who didn't think one extra day off was compensation enough to sign away the ability to litigate.

So, I'd suggest figuring out what it would take to get you to sign. I wouldn't use a lawyer to help you, just keep thinking for yourself. Keep in mind that they REALLY want/need you to sign. How about a few days off? Something else that wouldn't be cash out for them? Don't be too tough and you'll probably get what you want. My guess is that you have the upper hand here.

Good Luck,

Kevin

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46604 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 2:53 PM
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Thank you for all the thoughtful posts and suggestions. I'm taking everything into consideration and still trying to figure out how I want to proceed. The firm "graciously" granted me an extension of time to decide (they wanted me to take the agreement home and sign it that night), but I asked for more time. So, that's where it is right now. I'm thinking about it.

By the way, this is a BINDING arbitration agreement. It says, "[T]he decision of the arbitration shall be final and binding on all parties and shall be the exclusive remedy of the parties." In big letters it says, "NOTICE: BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT, YOU ARE AGREEING THAT ALL CLAIMS WILL BE DECIDED BY NEUTRAL ARBITRATION, AND YOU ARE GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL OR A COURT TRIAL." Funny thing, John told me I really wasn't giving up my rights--it was just a small thing they're asking of me. Of no consequence to me. Hmmm. The attorneys I work for are top-notch in their fields, and I have no doubt that this agreement is written to give them all the rights that they are entitled to. No question in my mind. It is written to their advantage in every detail they could think of. By the way, I am in California.

I am reluctant to pay to see an attorney over this. (Maybe I'm being stupid, but I just don't want to pay for this!) It seems pretty obvious that if somewhere down the line I had a dispute with the firm and I engaged an attorney, the first thing he (or she) would do is to look at this agreement I signed and shake his head because I have limited my remedies. The next thing he would do is to try to discredit it.

Although I haven't made my final decision, my instincts are to not sign this agreement. None of us knows what the future holds; that's why it's important to preserve our rights. Although the firm is generally good to me, I feel that I'm being politely bullied in this situation.

I was informed that I am now one of only 4 employees who have not signed this agreement. They are making a point of giving me that count. Why should it really matter to me? I still don't get why they need 100% participation, and the suggestion I received that it will save them money on insurance is all that I can think of. If so, I think they should have told me that. That's something I can relate to! If they just want to exercise power over me, well, that's not being well received.

One point that John made to me is that if I were to look for a job elsewhere, I would be required to sign such an agreement. I would guess that this is true for large law firms. In my warped way of thinking it's one thing to agree to something at the outset and quite another to attempt to change a previous agreement, especially when it comes to my giving away my rights.

I am maybe painting myself in a corner here, but I am playing with the idea of telling John, "I am not comfortable with signing this agreement. However, in light of the suggestion that I will be looked at in a different light if I don't sign the agreement, I am not willing to take that chance. I am therefore resigning." Obviously, I'd have to be willing to carry it out, but I would guess that they would be quite surprised at this outcome. And, hey, it gives them the result they want--I'll be off the "unsigned" list of active employees. And, I'll be RE'd a little earlier than planned. Win-win, huh? Perhaps instead of re-reading the arbitration agreement, I should be reading "The Joy of Not Working."

I'll let you know what I decide. Thanks again for all the help!

- Gruberman

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Author: LLNunn Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46605 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 3:43 PM
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"was informed that I am now one of only 4 employees who have not signed this agreement. They are making a point of giving
me that count. Why should it really matter to me? I still don't get why they need 100% participation, and the suggestion I
received that it will save them money on insurance is all that I can think of. If so, I think they should have told me that. That's
something I can relate to! If they just want to exercise power over me, well, that's not being well received."

I am a little surprised they would try twisting your arm. I don't know nothin' 'about no legal stuff but I thought "signing under duress" made certain documents questionable...

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Author: Watty56 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46606 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 3:54 PM
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I suspect that the firm may have been sued and you never heard about it. Companies try to keep things like that very quiet. I know of several situations where the revisions to company policy have been due to incidents that were never widely known.

I'm not an expert but one thing that you should look out for is a non-compete clause that could limit who you can work for in the future. How would you like being reminded in your exit interview that you couldn'd work for for any other law firm in the state of California for five years? I know of a situation about ten years ago up here in Oregon where a programmer who worked breifly for a large software consulting company ended up in a situation where couldn't go to work at any place that that the consulting company had ever contracted at, which was almost every company in town that had the type of computer he knew. He ended up moving out of state to find his next job. The irony of this is that(as I understand it)the non-compete clauses are clearly against Oregon law and are easly voided, but you have to go to court to get it thrown out. Try telling that to a company in a job interview when they ask when you can start.

Good luck

Greg


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Author: SuperDude One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46607 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 4:00 PM
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Funny thing, John told me I really wasn't giving up my rights--it was just a small thing they're asking of me. Of no consequence to me. Hmmm. The attorneys I work for are top-notch in their fields, and I have no doubt that this agreement is written to give them all the rights that they are entitled to. No question in my mind. It is written to their advantage in every detail they could think of. By the way, I am in California.

I made fun of the fact that this is a law firm trying to avoid using the courts (even if they are defendants, but then again, what happened to "honor among thieves"?), but this is actually serious. Read that agreement closely!

I've had friends work at companies that required similar agreements to be signed, and only found out later by reading it that their employer had the sole right to determine the aribter, AND to determine where the hearing is held.

As you can guess, this gives the employer the ability to make any abitration hearing as far from neutral as possible. Do you think they'll pick a purely neutral arbiter? Do you think they'll pick a state for the hearings that has laws that don't favour them? Do you think they'll make it convienient by holding the hearings in your city/state, or will they get you to travel across country?

There are lots of little 'gotchas' in these agreements. One friend's agreement even states that the maximum amount an arbiter can award is $1 million. Now you see why they can probably get cheaper liability insurance, they've reduced their risk.

Sounds to me like the best thing to do is not sign, or at the very least get a legal opinion!

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Author: inparadise Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46609 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 5:29 PM
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I am maybe painting myself in a corner here, but I am playing with the idea of telling John, "I am not comfortable with signing this agreement. However, in light of the suggestion that I will be looked at in a different light if I don't sign the agreement, I am not willing to take that chance. I am therefore resigning."

Is it just me or is this a bit extreme? You are complaining about signing a document that limits your ability to bite back if they do something against you, yet you are ready to quit over it? I mean, what could they do worse than fire you? You are effectively committing the worst case scenario on yourself by quitting, but even worse than their letting you go because by quitting you don't get unemployment. So if you want, be principaled and don't sign the document. You don't have much longer to go, so how many raises can they hold back? Or capitulate, and sign. But for crying out loud, let them fire you and collect the unemployment insurance, don't quit. You've paid in enough over the years. Collect.

InParadise

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46614 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/27/2001 7:27 PM
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But for crying out loud, let them fire you and collect the unemployment insurance, don't quit. You've paid in enough over the years. Collect.

Actually, I'm fairly certain that employees don't pay unemployment insurance. The employers pay that. I don't need to collect unemployment benefits anyway, as I can freelance tomorrow if I want to. Or, just retire and take it easy. I don't need the government's money, and I'd rather leave it for those who do.

Yes, I suppose it is a bit of an extreme stance to quit over this, but, what's wrong with making an extreme statement? I didn't appreciate the veiled threats, and maybe it's time to move on and leave the corporate world behind. Perhaps I don't belong there any longer if my attempts to assert my own rights are not accepted.

- Gruberman

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Author: gurdison Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46632 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 3:30 AM
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<Good jobs like that don't exactly grow on trees>


If you are a well qualified and experienced IT person, the jobs DO grow on trees and are like low hanging fruit. We all bring our own experiences to the table when giving advice. Hopefully the poster will take the wide range of answers and adds it all to the mix.

If he was very happy and this was such a minor thing, I do not think he would have even bothered posting. Obviously even if he sees no liklihood of ever sueing, it bothers him to be coerced into signing. The critical element in my view is just how close they may be to FI. There are literally millions of bosses who use an employees lack of FI to squeeze as much as they can out of their employees. When one lives week to week, their ability to speak out is often limited. Over the long term, this takes a big toll on people.

I can't begin to tell you how liberating it was to become FI. When I realized that I did not have to continue taking the crap that almost all of us have faced in our working lives, the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders. It is a great feeling when you no longer have to suffer the fools in silence. You can't wait for them to start in with you. Actually it is disappointing when they start to back off because they are not used to dealing with someone who has absolutely no worry about losing their job. It completely changes the work dynamic.

In the posters office you can be sure that the remaining few who have not signed will be facing increased pressure to sign. As there are fewer non-signers remaining, the pressure will greatly increase. Being FI will level the playing field.


BRG (happily RE since March 1999)

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46634 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 4:33 AM
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As a general rule, you can probably be fired for any reason or no reason at all. That's the employment at will doctrine.


If you have a written employment contract, it governs the employment relationship, although it sounds like you don't have one. The arbitration agreement would be an employment contract.


In many states, any employee handbook binds the employer much like a contract ---it's terms can be enforced by the employee, and often there can be good things that benefit employees in such a handbook, although such beneficial terms may have been edited out by a law firm! You might look in it, however, and see what grounds are required to discharge an employee. If it says they must give you a written warning first, or permits discharge only under certain conditions, they are probably bound by those restrictions. That might make it difficult for them to discharge you.

You might use such provisions if you are interviewed about signing the arbitartion agreement again. There may also be a grievance procedure listed in that handbook --- you might consider using it to complain about the campaign of harassment being used against you.


Employers like arbitration because arbitrators aren't going to bring back awards of $100 million because someone was wrongfully discharged. You are probably more likely to get a fair settlement, and get it faster and at lower cost than if you actually waited around to get a jury. On the other hand, the threat of a jury handing out a huge settlement can induce employers to settle cases too.


Consider this: almost every contract between and labor union and a company settles every dispute with arbitration if the parties can't settle it themselves. Unions and management CHOOSE arbitration as a way to settle disputes during a contract rather than lawsuits or strikes.

Arbitration is a reasonable deal for employees, in my opinion as an ex labor union organizer and business agent ---many years ago now.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46645 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 12:07 PM
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<<I am facing a bit of a workplace dilemma and would appreciate your perspectives.

If you can sue after arbitration then I would probably sign.
>>


Arbitration agreements almost always make the abitration decision final and binding. Only rarely will courts overturn an arbitrator's decision.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46649 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 12:41 PM
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If there were a scenario in which I wanted to sue my employer, I don't anticipate that it would be over termination, unless they fired me a day before I was to receive a bonus.

What I want to be protected against are unsafe conditions that the employer knew about and took no action and from which I am injured. Or, a violent coworker. (I have seen attorneys throw a tantrum when the computers are down; it is not out inconceivable.) Or perhaps my work is sabotaged. I don't know the spectrum of horrors that occur in the workplace, but I want to know that if I am wronged, I will have recourse. Although binding arbitration is a recourse, if my attorney wanted to take the matter through the courts, I would like to have the option. The option to a jury trial might actually help me find an attorney who will take the case on a contingency basis.

- Gruberman

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46651 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 12:54 PM
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<<By the way, this is a BINDING arbitration agreement. It says, "[T]he decision of the arbitration shall be final and binding on all parties and shall be the exclusive remedy of the parties." In big letters it says, "NOTICE: BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT, YOU ARE AGREEING THAT ALL CLAIMS WILL BE DECIDED BY NEUTRAL ARBITRATION, AND YOU ARE GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL OR A COURT TRIAL." Funny thing, John told me I really wasn't giving up my rights--it was just a small thing they're asking of me. Of no consequence to me. Hmmm. The attorneys I work for are top-notch in their fields, and I have no doubt that this agreement is written to give them all the rights that they are entitled to. No question in my mind. It is written to their advantage in every detail they could think of. By the way, I am in California.
>>


One thing I would look at is the rules for selecting an arbitrator and any special rules about the arbitration procedure.

It's fairly common to include language that follows the rules of the American Arbitration Association in the event of a dispute. This is an eminently fair set of rules, perhaps only being at fault by being somewhat too cumbersome in terms of procedure.


But in general, when a dispute is referred to arbitration, the arbitrator has wide power to make a decision and see it enforced. You would probably need an attorney to represent you and the procedures can be made somewhat complex, by FAR less complex that court trials may become.


Arbitration is a reasonable way of handling disputes. It's simplicity used to mean that employers didn't like to agree to arbitartion ---now the unpredictable results of jury awards and the risks of class action suits makes the courts risky, even for lawyers.


In my view, it's not unreasonable for an employer to require arbitration as a means of settling employment disputes. You are getting something significant for the rights you are giving up.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: NoPolitics Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46653 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 1:19 PM
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I vote to not sign and keep on working.

On of the joys of FI is that people can't push you around. You are still working so they still have some power over you. By signing the agreement, you are giving them more. It sounds like you feel you don't need this job very much. It sounds like your principles matter (in this case, the principle is standing up for yourself and not letting them change an existing employment agreement).

So I vote for principle. Tell them respectfully that the agreement isn't something you want to sign. Tell them why, and ask if it is truly voluntary. I'm a jerk and would read the dictionary definition of voluntary to them, but I wouldn't really recommend it.

If they really harrass you about it, quit.

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46659 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 4:11 PM
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Seattle Pioneer writes:

In my view, it's not unreasonable for an employer to require arbitration as a means of settling employment disputes. You are getting something significant for the rights you are giving up.

Um, what am I getting that's significant and wasn't already mine to begin with?

- Gruberman

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46667 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 6:38 PM
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<<Seattle Pioneer writes:

In my view, it's not unreasonable for an employer to require arbitration as a means of settling employment disputes. You are getting something significant for the rights you are giving up.

Um, what am I getting that's significant and wasn't already mine to begin with?

- Gruberman >>


You are getting a simpler and less costly way of getting a dispute resolved in exchange for the court system which has a greater probability of paying off with a very high damage award. That would be my assessment.


I would probably be very hesitent to sue a law firm over any issue, because the law firm can probably afford to spin out a dispute for a long time at great expense. Because of the relatively swiftness and certainty of a binding decision, I would much more readily take on a law firm if the dispute were to go to arbitration.

If your boss were bending you over a desk and forcing you to have sex, a jury award might well be much in excess of what an arbitrator might award.

I think it's a trade off, and one I wouldn't mind making, myself.




Seattle Pioneer







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Author: markr33 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46685 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/28/2001 11:57 PM
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Good jobs like that don't exactly grow on trees ...

Hmmmm, if a good job is defined as one in which the boss intimidates you with veiled threats if you don't sign an agreement, I shudder to think of how you would describe a bad job !

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Author: PK227 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46739 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/29/2001 9:31 PM
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Gruberman: Think there's a few things going on here. First your discussion with John was hurtful and felt like a betrayal of all the loyalty and good work you've done for this firm. I would tell him that. Guilt is a wonderful thing. It sounds like you like your job and would like to stay there, but I would suggest that you look around...quietly and see what the market looks like and perhaps go on an interview or two. You are then in a much better bargaining position. I would bet that with your work ethic and pride in your work, you're a hot property. Look closer to home, for more money, whatever. If you find something you like...great. Quit and take it or have another little chat with John and return the favor .. and give him your terms for staying with the firm. The worst thing that could happen is that you would find out that the market is tight and you might have to decide whether or not to suck it up and sign the document. The unfortunately thing is that you will never feel the same way about your job or your relationship with John. Sorry this happened to you and they should have better sense.

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46743 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/29/2001 10:10 PM
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First your discussion with John was hurtful and felt like a betrayal of all the loyalty and good work you've done for this firm. I would tell him that.

PK227, you pinpointed my feelings exactly, and I do plan to have another conversation with John and tell him honestly how his words were perceived. Unforutnately, if he tells me now that I won't be branded a troublemaker and my not signing will have no effect on my bonuses and raises, I will not be inclined to believe him.

One interesting provision in this arbitration agreement says, "I acknowledge that I have entered into this Agreement freely and voluntarily, although understanding it is a condition of employment. I further acknowledge that I have not been threatened or coerced to enter into this Agreement...." Guess if I agreed to sign, they'd have to remove that part! (We'll just insert the clown suit provision in its place....)

- Gruberman

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46758 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/30/2001 3:53 AM
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<<One interesting provision in this arbitration agreement says, "I acknowledge that I have entered into this Agreement freely and voluntarily, although understanding it is a condition of employment. I further acknowledge that I have not been threatened or coerced to enter into this Agreement...." Guess if I agreed to sign, they'd have to remove that part! (We'll just insert the clown suit provision in its place....)

- Gruberman >>


What does it say about what can be arbitrated and the arbitartion procedure ---any rules about process, picking the arbitrator and limitations on what the arbitrator can award?



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46770 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/30/2001 4:18 PM
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What does it say about what can be arbitrated and the arbitration procedure ---any rules about process, picking the arbitrator
and limitations on what the arbitrator can award?


All disputes must be arbitrated except for injunctive relief, workers' comp claims and unemployment benefits. Both sides decide on an arbitrator. If unable to agree, the matter is to be submitted to the American Arbitration Association. I don't see any limits as to the award. There are limitations on discovery--a maximum of 3 depositions per party, although more can be requested; the granting of more discovery is up to the discretion of the arbitrator. The decision of the arbitrator is final and binding and the exclusive remedies of the parties.

- Gruberman

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46779 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 7/30/2001 6:58 PM
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<<What does it say about what can be arbitrated and the arbitration procedure ---any rules about process, picking the arbitrator
and limitations on what the arbitrator can award?

All disputes must be arbitrated except for injunctive relief, workers' comp claims and unemployment benefits. Both sides decide on an arbitrator. If unable to agree, the matter is to be submitted to the American Arbitration Association. I don't see any limits as to the award. There are limitations on discovery--a maximum of 3 depositions per party, although more can be requested; the granting of more discovery is up to the discretion of the arbitrator. The decision of the arbitrator is final and binding and the exclusive remedies of the parties.

- Gruberman >>


Referring a dispute for resolution under the American Arbitration Association is the gold standard of arbitration.


Heck, I think this is a good deal. Federal state and local laws bristle with rights for employees, the biggest barrier being the cost of enforcing and proving violations. This gives a relatively simple and certain enforcement procedure compared to going to court, although you'd probably still need an attorney to represent you. As I recall, AAA rules provide that the cost of arbitration be shared equally between the parties, and each party pays for its own representation.

The limitation on the number of depositions limits cost, but also the complexity of a case you can investigate, although I'd expect you can call as many witnesses to an arbitration hearing as you would wish.

So you'd be buying into a system that gives you relative equality in a dispute with your employer, with the biggest limitations being the complexity of the case you can investigate before a hearing and the likelihood of a stupendous, runaway jury award.

Rather a good tradeoff, in my view.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: Gruberman Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 48839 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 8/24/2001 6:25 AM
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I thought I'd let everyone know what I ended up doing in regard to my workplace issue--the arbitration agreement that management was coercing me to sign.

John, the partner in my law firm who originally spoke with me, went on vacation, so the issue was delayed for a while. When he returned, I told him I was uncomfortable with signing the arbitration agreement, and I decided not to sign it. If I were to sign the agreement, I am giving up my right to a court trial. I believe that if anything were to happen that would cause me to sue my employer, signing such an agreement could limit my ability to find a lawyer who would take the case on a contingency fee basis. This could be a problem for me, and I certainly would need an excellent attorney if I want to sue a law firm. If for any reason my attorney wanted to arbitrate, it's obvious that my employer would agree to it. I don't feel that it's in my best interests to give up one of my rights, even if it is likely that I'll never exercise that right.

John seemed to understand that I am sincere and not just trying to be difficult.

I also explained to John how unfair I thought it was for management to try to coerce me to sign the agreement and threaten punishment if I don't sign. I am simply asserting a right; I don't think it should be met with punishment. John admitted that they were trying to coerce me to sign because, well, they want me to sign the agreement. He also said that bonuses are discretionary, so it's perfectly legitimate to reduce my bonus if I don't sign.

I told John that in light of the bleak picture he painted where my raises and bonuses could be reduced and I may be branded as a troublemaker, I am ready to leave the firm. Where we left it is that John is going to go back to management to find out exactly what the repercussions will be for my not signing.

Problem is, now that I'm thinking about leaving, I really want to....

- Gruberman

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Author: Savagegrace Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 48850 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 8/24/2001 9:16 AM
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He also said that bonuses are discretionary, so it's perfectly legitimate to reduce my bonus if I don't sign.

Sounds like blackmail to me. I have no doubt he's a very good lawyer.

Is there any reason for John to be in the gene pool? Do we really need the It's fun to pull the wings off insects mentality?


GS

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Author: YZF1K Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 48851 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 8/24/2001 9:24 AM
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Gruberman wrote:
He also said that bonuses are discretionary, so it's perfectly legitimate to reduce my bonus if I don't sign.

Perfectly legal is not the same thing as perfectly legitimate. I have no doubt that reducing your bonus is the former but not the latter... except to the extent one considers extortion perfectly legitimate.

I don't deny that employers have, and should have, wide discretion in setting their compensation structure. However, an employer that would use that discretion to try to bully someone to take a certain action, as in this case, is an employer for whom I would choose not to work, if at all possible. People like that are reason #42 why I bailed being a lawyer and turned to programming.

--Mark



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Author: RonBass Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 48866 of 739978
Subject: Re: Workplace dilemma (long) Date: 8/24/2001 12:00 PM
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Gruberman wrote:
He also said that bonuses are discretionary, so it's perfectly legitimate to reduce my bonus if I don't sign.

Which tells you all you need to know about "John".

Problem is, now that I'm thinking about leaving, I really want to....

Sounds like it's time to trot over to the "Ask The Headhunter" board <http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?bid=100142> to start the job search process...

Good luck!

-Ron

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