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High court: EEOC can circumvent arbitration pacts

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

In another highly anticipated decision, the Supreme Court ruled last month that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can file lawsuits on behalf of workers who had previously given up their right to sue by signing arbitration agreements.

The Jan. 15 ruling involved a short-order cook who signed an agreement when hired that required him to resolve any on-the-job dispute in arbitration, not in court. But when he quit, he bypassed arbitration and filed a complaint with the EEOC.

The high court decision said that the EEOC is "the master of its own case" and is free to decide for itself whether it wants to pursue a worker's lawsuit, regardless of whether that worker had signed an arbitration pact earlier. (EEOC v. Waffle House Inc., No. 99-1863).

The 6-3 ruling was a blow to U.S. employers, who have stepped up their use of arbitration pacts, especially since a Supreme Court ruling last year gave companies more freedom to require employees to sign arbitration agreements.

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