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HR Solutions

Understanding Melena

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Illinois Supreme Court Decision No license to Get Casual with ADR Agreements

05/04/06

In Melena v. Anheuser Busch, the court held that an employee’s retaliatory discharge claim was precluded by an ADR agreement that Melena never signed or received consideration for, other than through continuing to work after receiving the policy in the mail.

The court applied the Federal Arbitration Act and ruled that even if Melena had not knowingly and voluntarily agreed to the arbitration policy, she was bound by it.

This is good news for employers, but avoid reading this case to mean that unilateral transmission of ADR policies and procedures to workers is adequate.  Continued employment is no slam dunk.  The amount of time an employee continues to work after receiving the ADR policy is far from clear.  A judge could rule that three months wasn't enough.  Also, the Anheuser Busch mandated arbitration did provide all the remedies a person would get under the discrimination laws.

 

The Seventh Circuit could likely have ruled the other way had Melena gone to federal court with a discrimination claim; as her employer’s luck would have it, she went to the county courthouse with a common law tort claim.

We believe that an incumbent employee who sues in federal court and who is under mandated arbitration, could deflect Melena in federal court.  Practical implication: The best path is to go through the policy with the employees, get their signature, and pay for their promise to be bound by it.