What is the American Arbitration Association and what role does it play?

The American Arbitration Association (AAA®) is a not-for-profit, public service organization committed to the resolution of disputes through the use of arbitration, mediation and other voluntary procedures. As a purely administrative agency, the AAA processes a case from filing to closing. In this role the AAA works with the parties with respect to the selection and appointment of arbitrators. The Association then works with the arbitrator and the parties to facilitate the setting of hearings, the transmission of documents and the scheduling of conference calls. The goal is to keep cases moving in a fair and impartial process until completion.

Can I go through arbitration without an attorney?

Arbitration is less formal than going to court, and you may represent yourself. However, you should keep in mind that arbitration is a legal proceeding that results in an award that is generally final and binding. Because your legal rights are involved, you may choose to consult with and be represented by an attorney. Whether a business or an individual, all parties to an arbitration proceeding have the same option whether or not to be represented by an attorney. Because of the AAA’s neutral and impartial role in the arbitration process, the AAA and its employees cannot recommend or provide attorneys to parties in arbitration. If you do not have an attorney and wish to be represented by an attorney in arbitration, you may want to contact your local bar association or another legal service organization for a referral.

For general guidance on resources for finding legal representation, you can access the document “Find an Attorney or Other Legal Representation” by clicking on the following link: Finding an Attorney. Information on self-representation can be found by clicking on the following link: Self-Representation in Arbitration.

Does the AAA help me present my case?

No. The AAA’s Case Administrator will be your main contact throughout the case. The Case Administrator cannot assist either party in the presentation of its case. You should also not rely on the arbitrator to assist you in presenting your case. The Case Administrator will answer questions about certain procedures relating to the arbitration process and will distribute information to the parties, but Case Administrators do not provide legal advice or legal assistance.

Who are the arbitrators?

AAA arbitrators are independent, impartial decision-makers chosen for their knowledge, case experience, integrity, and dispute resolution skills. All AAA Employment Panel Members are highly accomplished and respected experts in their fields. AAA arbitrators are trained in a comprehensive program by the AAA to manage the dispute resolution process with fairness and skill, and an eye toward time- and cost-efficiency. Their conduct is guided by the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes, prepared by a Joint Committee of the American Arbitration Association and the American Bar Association. AAA arbitrators are required to attend periodic arbitrator training programs.

How do I know the arbitrator is neutral and impartial?

Before they accept appointment to a case, all arbitrators are responsible for completing a check for any past or present relationships with either party, the parties’ Representatives or attorneys, and any potential witnesses. If the arbitrator has any such relationships, all of the parties will be provided that information. After the parties are given that information, they are given the opportunity to comment on whether that individual should remain as the arbitrator in light of the disclosure. Arbitrators also sign an oath on each case stating that they will abide by the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes.

What happens after a claim is filed with the AAA?

Once the AAA makes the administrative determination that all filing requirements have been met the case is assigned to a Case Administrator. The Case Administrator will send the parties written correspondence to initiate the case. The initiation letter sets forth the due date for the Respondent to file an Answer, if any. In addition, the Case Administrator will communicate with the parties to ensure that they know how the process will unfold and to answer any procedural questions that the parties might have. Once the Answer has been filed, or the time within which to file an Answer has passed, the Case Administrator will initiate the arbitrator selection process. Once the selection process has taken place, the arbitrator will complete and submit to the AAA the appointment paperwork which includes the Notice of Appointment, Disclosure Worksheet, Notice of Compensation Arrangements and their AAA Resume. The completed paperwork then will be sent to all parties, who are given the opportunity to comment on whether that person should remain as the arbitrator.

What happens after the arbitrator is appointed?

After the arbitrator’s appointment is confirmed, the arbitrator will schedule a preliminary management conference with the parties and/or their representatives. The preliminary management conference will be conducted by telephone unless the arbitrator decides to conduct the preliminary management conference in person.

What is a preliminary management conference?

During the preliminary management conference the parties and the arbitrator discuss the future schedule and handling of the case. This might include a brief discussion of claims, scheduling of the hearing or the document submittal date, establishing dates for exchange of information between the parties, and any other preliminary matters the parties or arbitrator wish to discuss. After a preliminary management conference is held, the arbitrator issues written orders that state the arbitrator’s decisions made during or as a result of the preliminary management conference. The arbitrator may also conduct additional preliminary management conferences if the need arises.

How quickly after the hearing do I get the arbitrator’s decision?

Once the arbitrator closes the hearing, which occurs after the arbitrator determines that all of the information needed to make the decision has been received, the arbitrator will typically issue a decision within 30 days.

Can I settle my dispute prior to the arbitration hearing?

Yes. You may settle your dispute at any time before the arbitrator issues the award. If you have settled, or believe you are close to settling your dispute, notify your Case Administrator. If you settle the dispute at any point during the arbitration, and the parties request it, the arbitrator may lay out the terms of the settlement in a “consent award”, which is an award signed by the arbitrator that reflects the settlement terms of the parties. If you settle your case or withdraw your arbitration demand, the AAA will close its case file.

How to File Your Employment Arbitration Case, click here.

How to File Your Employment Mediation Case, click here.

Disclaimer: These materials are provided for informational purposes only, and are not intended to provide legal advice. Most of the information presented here is specific to the procedures of the AAA, although it may serve as a useful tool for arbitration processes generally. The content of this FAQ contains general information and may not reflect current developments.

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