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Surely this employer should have known better

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in Human Resources

A federal trial court has rebuffed attempts by a law firm to enforce an arbitration agreement against one of its own attorneys. The attorney, a woman, claimed that she had been paid less than male attorneys for the same work. She sued.

The law firm demanded that an arbitrator decide the case because the bylaws contained an arbitration clause. But the attorney swore she never saw a copy of the bylaws, never signed anything and generally didn’t know about the arbitration clause. The law firm couldn’t produce a copy, but instead argued that the attorney should have known there were bylaws and should have asked for them.

The court disagreed. Pennsylvania law requires a meeting of the minds before a contract can be created, and if the attorney never knew about the bylaws, there was no contract.

Final note: Even law firms sometimes neglect the obvious. Don’t make the same mistake—distribute and have employees sign any arbitration agreement you want to enforce. 

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