The Court of Appeal of California has upheld an arbitration agreement included in an employee handbook. The difference between this case and the arbitration case in "Don't bury arbitration agreement in handbook": The agreement was clear and obvious.
Recent case: Lorna worked as a property manager for a California company for about three years. When hired, she received lots of documents to read and sign, including a 43-page employee handbook.
On the last two pages, in bold, all-caps print, was a section titled “TEAM MEMBER ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND AGREEMENT.” The section laid out various company rules. In addition, its acknowledgment section stated that the employee had received and read the handbook and had read and understood all the terms and conditions outlined in the handbook. It also specified that employees were at-will workers.
In addition, there was a clause that laid out the arbitration language, which stated that any disputes would be handled in arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. Lorna signed the page.
Later, she sued, alleging wage-and-hour violations. The employer moved to compel arbitration and the court agreed. (Nelsen v. Legacy Partners, No. A132927, Court of Appeal of California, 5th Appellate District, 2012)
Final note: We said it before and we’ll say it again. If you want to arbitrate workplace disputes, you must make sure the agreement sticks. You will save precious little time and money if you have to first litigate whether the arbitration agreement itself is valid and enforceable. Get expert legal help.
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