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Even in California, arbitration agreement can be valid if employee knowingly signed it

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

A federal court has ordered an FMLA interference case to be sent to arbitration pursuant to an agreement an employee signed when he was hired. The court ordered arbitration even though it was troubled by some terms of the agreement.

Recent case: Brian began working for Ecothrift as a store manager in 2002. He significantly grew his store’s revenues over the years.

Then he had to take time off to care for his ailing parents. Shortly before he was due to return, the company told him his services were no longer needed because, “This just isn’t working out.”

Brian sued in federal court and Ecothrift asked that the case be sent to arbitration. Brian had signed an arbitration agreement in 2002 that said, “Any dispute with the Company regarding the terms and conditions of Employee’s hiring, employment, or termination shall be subject to binding arbitration to the maximum extent allowed by law, under terms and conditions which the parties may mutually agree upon….”

Brian argued that the agreement was unfair on multiple levels.

The court said that while some parts of the agreement might have been unfair, Brian had signed it. Plus, the court noted that Ecothrift had agreed to pay Brian’s arbitration costs—a move that helped persuade the court that the arbitration process was fair enough. (Dalton v. J. Mann DBA Ecothrift, No. 16-CV-03409, ND CA, 2016)

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