Florida is an at-will state, which means that employees can be fired without a specific reason (unless there is a written employment contract with definitive terms). Hence, many employees are exposed to wrongful termination and other similar issues.
Another common issue that often affects workers in Florida is the existence of arbitration agreements. It is not uncanny to see employers requesting employees to sign an arbitration agreement, which includes opt-out agreements.
In this article, we provide you a full guide to opt-out agreements in Florida.
What Are Opt-Out Arbitration Agreements?
Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution for resolving disputes outside of court. Typically, situations involving employers/employees in issues associated with labor law.
In the United States, arbitration is a private industry, which means workers seeking to have their rights enforced may face different hurdles, such as lacking transparency, questionable decisions, and relationships between arbitrators and companies.
Many workers in America already have signed away their right to bring a legal action in court against their employers. Instead, they opted for an agreement to private arbitration.
Commonly, arbitration agreements include an opt-out clause that permits the worker to opt-out of arbitration within a 30-day period counting from the signing. Hence, it allows employees to retain their right to file a lawsuit in court.
Typically, opt-out clauses require employees to send a letter or email to a specific address stating that they are opting out of the arbitration clause.
It is highly recommended that you seek guidance from an expert attorney in Florida before signing this type of contract. An expert attorney will review the agreement(s) and terms of service to identify any clauses with potentially negative implications.
Are Opt-Out Agreements Enforceable in Florida?
De facto, opt-out agreements can be enforced under Florida law.
However, it does not mean that an employee who signed an arbitration clause is not able to avoid arbitration and reclaim its right to sue in court.
In this sense, employers need to be careful when drafting an opt out agreement. As provided by state law, the burden is placed on the party that seeks to enforce the agreement to prove that a legally binding contract exists.
Are Opt-Out Agreements Enforceable in Florida? – A Case Study
To illustrate the situation, let us look in-depth into the Bell v. Macy’s Corp. Servs, a recent case that occurred in July 2020.
In this case, the plaintiff was employed by Macy’s. He filed a lawsuit asserting various discrimination and retaliation claims against Macy’s Corp. Services and two supervisors.
In response, the defendants alleged that the plaintiff was automatically bound by an arbitration agreement once he was hired by Macy’s. Thus, the agreement was part of the company’s orientation material provided to the plaintiff on his first workday.
The materials stated that if the plaintiff did not wish to arbitrate any disputes, he had 30 days from the date of admission to notify Macy’s in writing of his decision to opt-out. Otherwise, the plaintiff would be autocratically enrolled in the binding arbitration program.
Despite acknowledging the fact that he received the materials, the plaintiff insisted on his compliance with the opt-out requirements. Nonetheless, the defendants maintained their position, stating that there was no evidence the plaintiff returned his opt-out notice within the 30 days as required.
The decision pronounced by Judge Ruiz of the United States District Court of the Southern District in Florida was to order a bench trial to resolve the issue. Plus, the magistrate explained in his order that the burden is still on the defense to prove there was a valid arbitration agreement.
In this sense, Macy’s is responsible for proving that the plaintiff (Bell) did not mail an opt-out letter postmarked within a 30-day period from his admission.
Regardless, this case is a valuable way to demonstrate the risks employers are exposed to when they voluntarily sign an opt-out arbitration agreement.
Seek Expert Legal Advice
We strongly recommend that you seek a consultation with a lawyer before signing any type of arbitration agreement.
When you are signing this type of agreement, you may lose your right to access justice in a court, so ask a Florida lawyer to review all the documentation in detail.
In case you have already signed the contract, keep copies of the documentation and other correspondence tied to the terms of employment. Hence, in case you need to litigate any issues against the employer, you will have ground for your case.
Are You Dealing with an Opt-Out Agreement in Florida? – We Can Help You
As it is plain to see, dealing with opt out arbitration agreements in Florida holds its share of complexity. Hence, waste no time and money with uncertainty.