Just when you thought all the news about the Saints' bounty program had ended, here it is again as the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) sues the NFL over the bounty suspensions of Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita, reports The Associated Press.
The NFLPA claims that the arbitrator in the case had decided the fates of the three players before hearing any evidence of their alleged wrongdoing, in violation of the labor agreement, according to the AP. This illustrates one way that an arbitration clause in a contract can be challenged.
Arbitration is a non-judicial proceeding where a private party, the arbitrator, is chosen to decide who is right in an employment dispute. Like a court, an arbitrator takes evidence, hears testimony, and makes a ruling.
Arbitration can be binding or non-binding. Binding means that the parties are legally bound to follow the arbitrator's order, with non-binding meaning that the order is a suggestion that can be followed by the parties. The NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement has a binding arbitration clause.
One way to overturn the decision in a binding arbitration is through the federal court system. All arbitration is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
The Act allows for a decision to be overturned if it is found that the proceeding was influenced by fraud, the arbitrator was guilty of misconduct or bias, or if an arbitrator exceeded their powers, among others.
Here, the claim is that the arbitrator had made up his mind before seeing any evidence that the players presented. While this is certainly grounds for overturning a decision, it is difficult although possible to prove that the arbitrator was biased. Bias can be proved by showing an economic link between the arbitrator and the successful party, or by showing that the decision was made against the weight of evidence.
It will be an uphill battle for the players and the NFL Players Association to overturn the bounty suspensions, but it's a worthy fight for those who want to play.
- Looking for a Houston Employment Lawyer? (FindLaw)
- Saints Bounty Scandal: 4 Players Suspended, Legal Fight Expected (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- NFL Concussion Suit: Watch Out for the Quarterback Sneak (Houston Employment Law Blog)
- NFLPA sues league over bounty scandal appeals process (Reuters Canada)