Binding arb clause in new contract--unfair?!

Subject: Binding arb clause in new contract--unfair?!
From: Randy <ghost -at- NETAXIS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 06:06:10 -0800

Hi, all--

I'm working through an agency as a W-2, writing online help for a large
company dealing in financial information services. I've had the position
for over a year, with steady renewals of 3-month contracts (the short
contract length is what the client prefers for all its contractors).

For each renewal, my agency had me sign a separate "Schedule A" as an
attachment to the original contract I signed with them. Now, however,
the agency has been bought by another outfit and they've revised their
contract. Two points:

A) The ostensible reason for me to sign the new contract is that the
original contract was only good for a year. However, looking through the
original, I don't find any such limitation; rather, it is to be
considered extendable every six months unless otherwise terminated.
There's the usual language about the agency having the right to
terminate at any time for any reason.

B) My real objection is that the new contract has what I consider to be
an extremely severe binding arb clause; it asks me to waive *all* rights
to go to *any* court, whether state or federal, for *any* reasons,
including violations of any local, state, or federal laws. The mediator
would be J.A.M.S./Enddispute of New York, NY.

This agency has not been particularly pleasant to deal with, both for
myself and at least one other tech writer I know--I've twice had to
harrass them into paying me retroactive amounts due me by contract when
my rate went up (duties increased on the job). They're a sloppy
operation, somewhat greedy, and don't pay their bills to the client on
time either. So they are the last people on earth I want to sign all my
rights over to in the event of another, more serious dispute.

Any advice? I don't know how severely they want to make their binding
arb clause. I'd settle for something like the language in the original
contract, which also invoked binding arb but was far less draconian. I'm
pretty much ready to tell them to take a walk if they don't agree, given
the good job market for contractors these days. The client is very happy
with my work and doesn't like the agency either.

An e-mail reply as well as a post would be appreciated if anyone has a
perspective/opinion/tip on how to handle this.

--Randy Burgess

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