Compulsory arbitration agreement definition: What you need to know

Compulsory arbitration agreements, also known as forced or mandatory arbitration agreements, are contracts that require parties to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of going to court. These agreements are commonly used in employment contracts, consumer agreements, and other types of contracts.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a legal process in which a dispute is resolved by an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators, as opposed to a judge or a jury. The arbitrator is usually chosen by the parties involved in the dispute and is an expert in the relevant area of law. The decision of the arbitrator is binding and enforceable in a court of law.

What are the benefits of compulsory arbitration agreements?

Proponents of compulsory arbitration agreements argue that they save time and money by avoiding lengthy court battles. Arbitration is generally faster, less formal, and less expensive than going to court. In addition, the decision of the arbitrator is final and binding, which provides a measure of certainty to the parties involved.

What are the drawbacks of compulsory arbitration agreements?

Critics of compulsory arbitration agreements argue that they are unfair to consumers and employees. The agreements are often buried in the fine print of contracts and are presented as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. This means that consumers and employees are often forced to sign away their right to go to court without fully understanding the implications of the agreement.

In addition, compulsory arbitration agreements often favor the party with more bargaining power. For example, employers may have more leverage than employees in negotiating the terms of an arbitration agreement. This can lead to an unequal playing field and a result that is biased against the weaker party.

What is the legal status of compulsory arbitration agreements?

Compulsory arbitration agreements are generally enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The FAA was enacted in 1925 to promote arbitration as a means of resolving disputes between commercial entities. Since then, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the validity of compulsory arbitration agreements in employment and consumer contracts.

However, there are exceptions to the enforceability of compulsory arbitration agreements. For example, if the agreement is unconscionable or if the arbitration process is so one-sided that it deprives a party of its day in court, a court may refuse to enforce the agreement.


In conclusion, a compulsory arbitration agreement is a contractual provision that requires parties to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of going to court. There are benefits and drawbacks to these agreements, and their enforceability is generally upheld under the Federal Arbitration Act. However, there are exceptions to their enforceability, and parties should carefully consider the implications of signing a compulsory arbitration agreement before doing so.