Who doesn’t love straight talk from an attorney? One of my favorite aspects of our forthcoming Definitive Guide to Workforce Compliance for Dealers are the interviews. Along with infographics and worksheets, we had the opportunity to record conversations with industry-leading HR, compliance, and legal experts, and their insights are the kind you don’t hear every day.
Take our conversation with attorney Stephen J. Roppolo. Steve serves as one of the key figures at the head of Fisher Phillips, a law firm with a dedicated Automobile Dealership practice group—and one of our frequent collaborators. And while he may be a managing partner, Steve is really an entrepreneur at heart. Growing up in a small business family, he realized early on that by immersing himself in labor and employment law, he could help grow not just one company, but many.
“Every business entity in the country has to deal with labor and employment issues,” he told us. “If I wasn’t going to be running my own business, I could help other people run theirs.” It wasn’t long before he fell in love with the fast-paced, high-energy world of automobile dealerships. These days, Steve provides counseling and representation to dealers of all kinds, assisting with everything from litigation and arbitration to everyday communication with employees.
In our guide, we spoke with Steve about the advice he gives to his clients, what legal issues dealers need to focus on now, and what the future of the automotive industry has in store. But not every part of our conversation made the final product. There was simply too much to include! Despite the fact that we could have easily doubled the page count for Steve’s section in the Definitive Guide, we figured there was no getting around it: some things just wind up on the cutting room floor.
And then we remembered we have a blog. So, without further delay, here’s a nugget of legal insight that didn’t make it into the printed guide:
COMPLI: According to American Arbitration Association research, 80% of arbitration claims brought before a board were resolved in favor of the repeat player—the business who implemented the arbitration agreement rather than the individual bringing the claim. Do you seeing that trend follow through in real life, or is it somewhat inflated?
STEPHEN J. ROPPOLO: I don’t know what causes that statistic, but I’ll mention a couple of things. First of all, employers are more likely to try the case if they’re in an arbitration context. They might be less inclined to settle it. I think more cases are actually being heard by the fact finder.
And so, where there are more cases being heard, we are finding that employers are positioning themselves to do well in these cases because they are litigating the cases through the arbitration process in a manner that is designed for success. Meanwhile, other employers might be just trying to get the case positioned for settlement as well as they can .
In the past three years or so, I’ve participated in a couple of arbitration hearings for automobile dealers. Both of them were zero verdicts for the plaintiffs, meaning they didn’t recover anything against our clients. It really was a case that if we were in court, we might not have even tried it. We might have just settled the case, worried that maybe a jury would have decided the case differently or that the court would nullify the whole thing.
There are lots of stories out there like that, where employers are more willing to let a fact-finder decide the case. That could explain, in part, the rationale for that statistic being high for the employer.
Given what I’ve seen from arbitrators, they take these cases very seriously. In many instances, arbitrators are former judges themselves. And most good arbitrators simply try to call balls and strikes.
They want to just as fair as they possibly can be, because they know that that’s really what parties are looking for. I mean, if it’s too “home cookin’” and an arbitrator gets the reputation of being biased toward one side or the other, then that person’s never going to get picked as an arbitrator—even if it’s somebody who the employer is interested in using, because the other side has to agree to it. It’s incumbent upon the arbitrator to really maintain the neutrality they’re supposed to have, as that’s what gets them brought on for the next case from both sides.
Compli’s Definitive Guide to Workforce Compliance features infographics, interviews with auto industry leaders and influencers, and answers to the most pressing challenges dealers face. This comprehensive guide is available for free to attendees of NADA100—click here for more information.