Arbitration in the Workplace: The Need for Legislative Intervention

Wright, Jeremy | June 27, 2022

Since passage of the Federal Arbitration Act in 1925, arbitral proceedings have played an important role in American dispute resolution processes. However, the frequent application of the FAA to employment contexts is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the past thirty years, the Supreme Court has heralded an explosion in the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in employee contracts, reshaping employment law and limiting workers’ access to courts. Vast swaths of American workers are now bound to agreements they know little about that provide them only precarious protections. Justifiable backlashes to this terraforming of the employment law landscape have begun to sprout up in various workplaces.

This Essay suggests that the uninhibited expansion of arbitration to employment contexts has been a net negative for American workers. While current arbitration procedures are suitable for the commercial business-to-business disputes the FAA originally envisioned, these procedures have not been appropriately modified for workplace contexts, making such cases ripe for abuse. Documenting the history of the FAA and modern Court decisions regarding it, this Essay contends that Congress will need to act boldly in order to develop a system of arbitration suitable for workers.


J.D. Candidate, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, 2022; B.S., Adelphi University, 2012. Special thanks to James R. Ferguson for thoughtful, comprehensive comments and suggestions in the development of this Essay. Thanks, as well, to Taylor Nchako and the editors of Northwestern University Law Review Online for their close reading and excellent editorial recommendations. Finally, eternal thanks to my husband, Roy Peters, who has been my steadfast rock throughout this lengthy process.

Copyright 2022 by Jeremy Wright

Cite as: Jeremy Wright, Arbitration in the Workplace: The Need for Legislative Intervention, 117 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 1 (2022),