Many people hired for work, in California, are being required to go to arbitration and not court in case there is almost any dispute or problem about work. Harassed at work? Then it’s off to arbitration. Discriminated against at work? Then it’s off to arbitration. Want your day in court? Not if it is going to be arbitrated. Those are some of the disputes that employees agree to arbitrate as opposed to court.
What is the difference between arbitration and court? There are several differences but the one that stands out the most is that you, as the employee, give up the right to a jury trial when you agree to go to arbitration. Don’t think you agreed to arbitrate your problems when you took the job? Read the fine print in your application or employee manual you received. The fine print, however, is also where the problem exists for employers, according to the recent California Appellate Court of Mayers v. Volt Management Corp.
In Mayers v. Volt Management Corp., an employee sued his former employer for work related disputes. The employer sought to have the case arbitrated and not heard before a jury, arguing that the employee was given to read and sign an arbitration agreement. That is true. The Appellate Court, however, pointed out that the arbitration agreement that the employee signed required that arbitration be done under certain rules and regulations. Those rules and regulations were not in the agreement and were never provided to the employee to read. Nor did the employer explain how or where the employee could find those rules/regulations if the employee wanted to know. The Appellate Court held that not providing those arbitration rules was unconscionable, and thus invalid in forcing the employee to arbitrate the case.
To sum up, the employer needs to make sure that an arbitration agreement does not refer to items outside the agreement. That is, the arbitration agreement should have all the terms and rules within the agreement itself. But, if that cannot be done for some reason, then the employer should make the effort to provide to the employee copies of those rules or at least show where the employee can find them on their own. For the employee, this case represents another way to avoid having your employment lawsuit taken away from a jury and instead sent to arbitration, where there is no jury.