Skip to main content

Coronavirus Impact on Arbitration & Mediation Hearings

Richard W. Berry
"The safety and well-being of parties, arbitrators, witnesses and other participants is of paramount importance."

Richard W. Berry
FINRA Executive Vice President and Director of Dispute Resolution Services

Holding In-Person Arbitration Hearings and Mediations Safely

Status: Effective August 2, 2021, all FINRA DRS hearing locations are open for in-person proceedings.

Vaccination Requirement for In-Person Participants

Effective June 6, 2022 through December 31, 20221, all in-person participants, including arbitrators, mediators, counsel, parties, paralegals, witnesses, and others, must be fully vaccinated2 to attend FINRA Dispute Resolution Services arbitration hearings or mediation sessions (hearing). An exception will be made for in-person participants who attest that there are circumstances preventing them from being vaccinated. All in-person participants must attest that they have taken a negative PCR or antigen test within 24 hours of the start of the hearing and every 24 hours during the course of the hearing. Arbitrators may request reimbursement for at-home COVID tests (see Frequently Asked Questions below). For all other in-person participants, the costs associated with COVID testing are the responsibility of the parties or individuals that incurred them.

Testing Requirement for In-Person Participants (Florida Hearing Locations Only)

Effective June 6, 2022 through December 31, 20221, for cases with in-person arbitration hearings or mediation sessions (hearing) in Florida, all in-person participants, including arbitrators, mediators, counsel, parties, paralegals, witnesses, and others, must attest that they have taken a negative PCR or antigen test within 24 hours of the start of the hearing and every 24 hours during the course of the hearing3. Arbitrators may request reimbursement for at-home COVID tests (see Frequently Asked Questions below). For all other in-person participants, the costs associated with COVID testing are the responsibility of the parties or individuals that incurred them. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of COVID test is required?

You can take an antigen test (also known as a rapid test) or a PCR test.

I’m an arbitrator. How do I get reimbursed for the cost of an at-home COVID test?

Arbitrators may request reimbursement from their insurance for at-home COVID tests. Alternatively, they may request reimbursement from FINRA for at-home COVID tests in an amount up to $15 per test for each day of a hearing. The cost of tests would be a miscellaneous line item on the arbitrator’s expense report.

Where can I obtain COVID tests?

At-home tests may be purchased at local pharmacies and may be reimbursable by your insurance provider (contact your insurance provider if you have questions).

Should I wait until I get to the hearing to take a COVID test and complete my Health Certification?

No. Before arriving at the hearing, please (1) obtain your test results and (2) then submit your daily Health Certification, if all statements are true. If you receive a positive test result, please do not submit a Health Certification or attend the hearing in person.

How do I submit a Health Certification?

A link to the Health Certification will be sent to you each day. Click on the link, read the Health Certification carefully and, if all statements are true, simply click submit.

What if the link to the Health Certification does not work?

If the link doesn’t work, staff made an error. Please contact staff immediately so they can correct the error.

Will the Health Certification link be the same for each day of my hearing?

Generally, yes, but staff will email you each day to make sure that you have the link. Due to circumstances, it is possible that the link could change. Please be sure that you read staff emails carefully.

Do you need proof that I tested negative to enter the hearing?

Your completed Health Certification (attesting that you received a negative test result within the previous 24 hours) is your proof that you tested negative. That is all that is required from you.

What if I test positive after attending a hearing in person?

If you test positive within 10 days after attending a hearing in person, please contact staff immediately so that we can follow our contact tracing procedures.

Safety Protocol for In-Person Hearings

FINRA DRS is committed to taking measures to ensure each hearing location is safe for the hearing participants. FINRA DRS is reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and consulting with public health experts to determine the appropriate safety protocols at each hearing venue. Details on the exact safety protocols that will be in place for hearings will be sent to parties and arbitrators in advance of scheduled hearing dates. These protocols may include:

  • Hearings held in venues large enough to allow social distancing;
  • Hand sanitizer provided in each room;
  • Masks worn by all in-person participants and arrangements made to provide masks to participants who do not have them;
  • Plexiglas dividers and face shields provided in the event that testifying witnesses must remove their masks; and
  • In-person participants provided with information on best practices when traveling to and attending the hearing.

1 This date is subject to change as health and safety conditions warrant.

2 Counsel or pro se parties will file an attestation with their FINRA case administrator that they and all of their parties, paralegals, witnesses, etc. are fully vaccinated and will comply with the COVID-19 testing requirements. Arbitrators and mediators will also be required to file the attestation.

3 Counsel or pro se parties will file an attestation with their FINRA case administrator that they and all of their parties, paralegals, witnesses, etc. will comply with the COVID-19 testing requirements. Arbitrators and mediators will also be required to file the attestation.