Here’s a warning for employers that want to use arbitration to solve employment-related problems without expensive litigation: Don’t expect to draft the agreement yourself, modify something you find on the Internet or use an English version when employees speak another language, such as Spanish or Vietnamese.
Recent case: When Esteban, whose native language is Spanish, went to work for the Millennium Car Wash, he could not speak or read English.
Two weeks after he started working, the manager gave Esteban a document that he thought was a work application. Parts of the document were written in Spanish and others were in English. Esteban did not understand the parts in English.
It was his understanding he had to sign the document in the form presented to him; otherwise he thought he would not be permitted to work. Managers never explained the document to him, and no one told him that by signing it, he was agreeing to arbitrate all work-related claims.
In fact, he did not think he was waiving any rights by signing the document. He did not understand what an arbitration proceeding meant. He never received any additional documents from the car wash regarding arbitration proceedings.
When Esteban wound up suing the car wash, the court tossed out the agreement, concluding it was unconscionable. Esteban will be allowed to sue in court. (Carmona v. Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, No. B248143, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2014)
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