Among other things, the agreement states that:
- the employees give up the right to be a part of a class action lawsuit
- the employees' rights to go to the government with concerns is not limited (whew!)
- the employees have the right to challenge the arbitration agreement (generous of them)
- worker's compensation, unemployment, ERISA, NLRB are not covered by the agreement
My understanding of arbitration clauses has been that this is a growing phenomena in retail disputes or disputes with financial firms, but a brief perusal of the internet indicates this is an increasingly common practice. The National Employment Lawyers Association (certainly NOT an uninterested party in this case) claims 27% of US employers have these sorts of binding arbitration agreements with their employees. I understand that arbitration firms are, in general, pretty friendly to employers, although this is an impression and not a peer-reviewed scientific fact.
Sadly, it appears to me there is little (short of political action at the Congressional level) that the employees of BMS can do in this situation. I do not love the class-action system (I think it's a terrible legal kludge with bad incentives), but it seems like one of the few remaining constraints on employer power in the employer-employee relationship.
Readers, do you have experience with such agreements? Can you name other major employers of chemists that currently have such agreements? How does a chemist best decide to protect themselves?