Arbitrators can decide post-termination retaliation

Good news if you use arbitration agreements: They apply to former employees who claim retaliation based on protected activity. The potential result: You’re less likely to wind up defending a lawsuit in federal court.

Recent case: When Lisa McQueen-Starling, who is black, lost her job in a reduction in force, she thought the reason might be discrimination. She tried to sue, but the case went to arbitration, under the terms of an agreement she had signed.

When her former boss didn’t recommend her for another job, McQueen-Starling tried to add a retaliation claim. The arbitrator ruled that her former supervisor didn’t retaliate, but had a legitimate reason for refusing to recommend her.

She tried to take the case to federal court, but the judge said the arbitrator was within the law when he handled the claim in arbitration. (McQueen-Starling v. United Health Group, No. 08-Civ-4885, SD NY, 2011)