In general, employers prefer arbitration as a forum to litigate employment law disputes because it forces employees to give up their right to a jury trial.  Accordingly, employers frequently require employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.  However, a recent New Jersey trial court opinion (Cator v. WRDC Corp., BUR-L-728-17, decided on February 2, 2018) further erodes an employer’s ability to have employees sign arbitration agreements and give up their right to a jury trial under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Jorvia Cator, an African American female, made complaints to her employer about race discrimination during her one-year employment with the company.  During Ms. Cator’s employment, the company implemented a new policy requiring employees to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment.  Ms. Cator refused, and handwrote on the agreement, “I do not wish to waive my right to sue for discrimination and therefor[sic] I do not agree to arbitrate my claims of discrimination.” In response, the company suspended Ms. Cator and advised her that she could not return to work unless she signed the agreement.

As a result, Ms. Cator filed a lawsuit, alleging that the company’s refusal to allow her to return to work because she refused to give up her right to a jury trial violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination as a retaliatory discharge. Ultimately, Ms. Cator filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting the trial court to find that the company violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination as a matter of law.  The trial court granted Ms. Cator’s motion.  In so doing, the trial court determined that Ms. Cator engaged in protected activity under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by refusing to waive her right to a jury trial, and that the company’s refusal to allow her to return to work was an adverse employment decision.