Despite misgivings, judge backs Applebee’s arbitration policy

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

A waiter at a Philadelphia area Apple­­bee’s will have to go it alone against the company after a federal judge reluctantly admitted the man signed away his right to litigate in federal court when he joined the company.

The Rose Group, which operates 39 Pennsylvania Applebee’s restaurants, requires all employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. The contracts forbid class actions, forcing each aggrieved employee to pursue charges alone.

In this case, the waiter claimed the company’s policy of paying waiters less than minimum wage violates both state and federal minimum wage laws. Applebee’s claims the waiters are tipped employees, but the waiter maintains the company forces waiters to perform duties other than those for which they earn tips.

Judge Berle Schiller said he was bound by precedent but felt the situation was “lamentable.” Judging the agreements to be unfair, he noted nonetheless that “Applebee’s holds all the cards here.”

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