Arbitration proceedings are not confidential. There is no statute or State Bar rule that requires arbitrations to be confidential. Confidentiality is required only by contract.


An employee may have reasons to want the arbitration to be public. Public disclosure may influence the employer to settle. Public disclosure may influence the employer to change its discriminatory or retaliatory practices. Public disclosure may enhance the reputation of the employee attorney. Public disclosure may provide a stronger sense of justice being done for the employee. Public disclosure may persuade other employers not to engage in similar practices.  


If the original arbitration agreement does not provide for confidentiality of the arbitration proceedings, the employer may attempt to obtain a stipulation from counsel for confidentiality. For the reasons listed above, the employee’s attorney may want to resist entering into such a stipulation. 


If the employee’s attorney requests court reporter transcripts of the proceeding, those transcripts can be made public unless there is a stipulation are agreement to limit that right. It reasons that if the parties have not agreed to the privacy of arbitration, members of the public can be invited to attend the arbitration. Simply that the matter is heard in a private location does not prevent the person in control of the premises from admitting persons to attend. An arbitrator may exercise his discretion in excluding witnesses, but he may also exercise his discretion in allowing observers to the proceedings. 


 When counsel reviews “verdict and award” results and sees that there are arbitration awards listed, that information is the result of one or both of the parties declining to enter into an agreement of confidentiality. For various tactical reasons, employee’s counsel should consider refusing such agreements if the original arbitration agreement does not already provide for confidentiality.

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