A recent ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals found that while a former employee is required to arbitrate his employment discrimination claim, a provision that entrusts the arbitration proceedings solely to the National Football League Commissioner is unconscionable and unenforceable.
The employment agreement between the former employee and the St. Louis Rams required arbitration of any dispute between them. However, the agreement stated that matters shall be referred to the Commissioner of the NFL and that the decision of said Commissioner shall be final, binding, conclusive and unappealable.
That’s where the Court of Appeals threw a legal flag against the club.
The court stated that the Commissioner owes his position to the teams making up the NFL, which includes the Rams. Thus, it found that an arbitration provision that allows the selection of the arbitrator, who must be unbiased, to be made solely by an individual who is in a position of bias, to be unconscionable and unenforceable, as follows:
Our recognition of the potential for very real bias is not intended to impugn the integrity of the Commissioner or his appointee. However, the very nature of bias is often subtle and unseen to the person or persons holding such bias. For that reason, it is imperative that an arbitration proceeding be overseen by an arbitrator selected in an objectively impartial and unbiased manner.
Instead of a 5-yard penalty against the Rams, the Court of Appeals ordered that the trial court appoint a neutral arbitrator.