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Last term in In Re Frank Kent Motors, the Texas Supreme Court confirmed the enforceability of pre-dispute waivers of jury trials. Texas employers enter such agreements with at-will employees, and the court found them enforceable even if the waiver is a condition of continued employment (i.e., the employee is told that he will lose his job if he refuses to sign the agreement). Now that the high court has approved agreements to resolve disputes at the courthouse but without a jury, in-house counsel for Texas employers should consider whether their clients should use jury waivers instead of arbitration agreements to resolve disputes with employees.

The advertised advantages of arbitration (real or imagined) are well documented. Arbitration provides a private procedure for dispute resolution. It permits parties to select a mutually agreeable arbitrator, who may have unique or particular experience in the subject matter of the case, to decide the dispute. Arbitration also operates on a schedule established by the parties rather than a docket set by the court, providing greater flexibility. Some lawyers find arbitration to be quicker and less expensive than litigation even though the parties (usually the employer) have to pay the arbitrator’s expenses.

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