In an effort to avoid costly civil litigation from claims brought by employees for harassment, discrimination, back pay, and wrongful termination, Comcast is now coxing its employees to sign an agreement barring access to justice through jury trial. The program, called “Comcast Solutions”, gives employees a three step process to claims resolution, where an employee can accept the outcome at any level or decide to go on to the next level:
- Review and facilitation: an internal review of the claim at the Comcast Corporate Headquarters or Divisional level
- Mediation: a formal settlement/mediation conference with an outside, professional mediator, where the mediator assists the parties with negotiating a settlement
- Binding Arbitration: a formal arbitration hearing, where witnesses and evidence are presented before an outside, professional arbitrator (a former judge or a lawyer) who imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides and enforceable
If a legal claim proceeds to Step 3 arbitration, the employee pays a portion of the $150 arbitration fee, which is reimbursed if the employee is successful with the claim. Some of the employee’s attorney fees may also be reimbursed, depending on the outcome of the case.
Employees Waive Their Rights
In exchange, Comcast employees who agree to participate in the Comcast Solutions program waive the right to bring civil action, have a jury trial for any legal claims, or bring or participate in a class action. Employees not wishing to participate in the program must opt out of the agreement in advance. In other words, Comcast employees who do nothing lose the right to a jury trial.
Arbitration Agreements in Comcast Customer Contracts
Comcast also uses “mandatory binding arbitration” to avoid jury trials with customer claims. A recent class action suit brought against the cable provider by consumers may never get to trial due to wording in Comcast’s terms of service that limits resolution of customer disputes to arbitration. This was made possible by a 2010 US Supreme Court ruling confirming that companies can insert arbitration clauses in their contracts.