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Abstract

The attempt to compel arbitration in a dispute involving federal statutory rights given judicial protection brings into tension two firmly established national policies. On one side, there is the national policy as set forth in the Federal Arbitration Act' (hereinafter Arbitration Act) which strongly favors arbitration agreements.' On the other side, there is the national policy of providing broad access to the courts as the means of enforcing certain statutorily granted rights.' The tension is created when an individual bound by an arbitration agreement raises a claim based on a federal statutory right which is judicially protected. This is precisely the tension faced by the district court of New Jersey in Steck v. Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.' The court faced the issue of whether a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act' (hereinafter ADEA) could be compelled to arbitration under the Arbitration Act.' The court concluded that the plaintiff's claim under the ADEA was nonarbitrable, despite its finding that the claim fell within the scope of the arbitration agreement.* The court reached this conclusion by examining the text and legislative history of the ADEA and judicial precedent involving analogous statutory schemes.

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