In the wake of the alleged jaw-breaking suffered last August by Raiders employee Randy Hanson, he has filed suit against coach Tom Cable and the organization. According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, the Raiders have asked the court in Alameda County to compel arbitration of the claims, based on language in Hanson’s contract that requires him to submit any claims to this alternative to full-blown litigation.
Presumably, the contract requires arbitration in the league office, with Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee presiding — and with the ruling from the league office being final and binding. It’s a common requirement for all club employees whose employment is governed by the terms of a contract.
In Hanson’s case, the outcome will depend on the language of Hanson’s contract and the applicable California and federal law regarding the claims that may and may not be referred to arbitration. Nearly a decade ago, the United States Supreme Court concluded that the Federal Arbitration Act applies to employment disputes. The broader question is whether Hanson’s contract sweeps broadly enough to encompass the legal theories Hanson has asserted.
Predictably, Hanson’s lawyer thinks it doesn’t. “These are all peculiarly state of California causes of action that have
nothing to do with a contractual dispute between a team in the NFL and
any of its employees,” John McGuinn told Silver.
Apparently, McGuinn hasn’t practiced much employment law. Arbitration isn’t simply reserved to “contractual disputes.” Arbitration clauses routinely are written to require the employee to submit any and all possible claims to arbitration, with the legal mumbo jumbo necessary to ensure that any form of gripe, bitch, piss, and/or moan the employee ever might have falls within the commitment to arbitrate.
Anyone who wants to work for an NFL team in a capacity governed by a contract has no choice but to sign the document. Actually, that’s incorrect. The person has a choice. The person can go work somewhere else.
To avoid the contractual commitment made by Hanson when he accepted his job, McGuinn will be required to argue that some aspect of California law overrides the duty to arbitrate as applied to one or more of the specific theories Hanson has alleged. It will be a tall order.