The Jury BoxTo Jury or Not to Jury

It is always interesting to hear people talk about the runaway jury and risks of letting a jury determine the fate of a business/employer.  Most jury members, like most people, are not employers but are employees.  It’s a fair statement that they are likely to have some bias against the employer whether they admit it during jury questioning or not.  That natural bias can be overcome, but it is not easy.  For all intents and purposes, employers are the "Man".

In the context of employment agreements two popular alternatives to juries have developed – the arbitration and the jury trial waiver.  Though arbitrations are a good alternative, they can be expensive and impractical for the typical employment agreement.  Opting for a judge as opposed to a jury can be a good alternative.

The Typical Waiver

Waiver of Trial by Jury. Seller and buyer knowingly and conclusively waive all rights to trial by jury, in any action or proceeding relating to this Contract.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the provision above was enforceable.  Though this provision was in a business transaction, it can be amended for use in the employment context. 

Yes or No.

First, the waiver eliminates any potential jury bias (of course Judges have their own biases).  Second, in most cases a trial date for a non-jury trial will be earlier than a jury trial setting because the cases take less time.  Finally, a non-jury trial is typically shorter and as a result less costly.

Waivers make sense.  They are  easy to use, enforceable, and probably a better alternative to arbitration these days.