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General Arbitration Clause Does Not Waive Litigation Rights in Discrimination Cases
Description Supreme Court held that a general arbitration clause in a collective-bargaining agreement was not enforceable as to federal antidiscrimination rights. Employee could litigate the matter. Waivers of litigation rights must be "clear and unmistakable."
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Arbitration Clause; Collective Bargaining; ADA
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Longshoreman covered by collective-bargaining agreement, that contained an arbitration clause, sued in federal court for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act when employer refused to rehire him following his claim for permanent disability benefits for work-related injuries. Lower courts rejected the suit because plaintiff failed to pursue arbitration. Plaintiff appealed to Supreme Court.
Decision Reversed. Plaintiff did not waive his statutory right to litigate since the arbitration clause was a general clause that referred to "matters under dispute." For a union to waive employees' rights to a federal judicial forum for statutory antidiscrimination claims, the arbitration agreement must be clear and unmistakable. The Court noted that it did not reach the issue of whether such a specific waiver of federal litigation rights would be enforceable.
Citation Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corp.,, 119 S.Ct. 391 (Sup. Ct., 1998)

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