Mandatory consumer and employment arbitration should be distinguished from consensual arbitration, particularly commercial arbitration. Arbitration can be either voluntary or mandatory (although mandatory arbitration can only come from a statute or from a contract that one party imposes on the other, in which the parties agree to hold all existing or future disputes to arbitration, without necessarily knowing, specifically, what disputes will ever occur) and can be either binding or non-binding.
Non-binding arbitration is similar to mediation in that a decision cannot be imposed on the parties. However, the principal distinction is that whereas a mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground on which to compromise, the (non-binding) arbiter remains totally removed from the settlement process and will only give a determination of liability and, if appropriate, an indication of the quantum of damages payable. By one definition arbitration is binding and non-binding arbitration is therefore technically not arbitration.
The dispute will be decided by one or more persons (the "arbitrators", "arbiters" or "arbitral tribunal"), which renders the "arbitration award". An arbitration award is legally binding on both sides and enforceable in the courts. As examples, Google recently disallowed the practice of forced arbitration for labor issues raising from sexual assault and harassment cases, and now has said it will not employ forced arbitration in any matter whatsoever.
In arbitration the issue of management rights and its limits and reasonableness are usually analyzed, unless there is a management union dispute and so the claims on either side can easily be seen to become quite "provocative". Procedural abuse and substantive abuse issues are often debated.