Employers frequently require employees to agree to arbitrate employment-related disputes as a condition of employment, or of continued employment. The California Arbitration Act (CAA) supplies default procedures for arbitration. Arbitration can proceed in accordance with other procedures, but only if employers can demonstrate that their employees agreed to them.
In Cruise v. Kroger Co., 233 Cal.App.4th 390 (2015), an employee sued her employer in state court following her termination, and the employer moved to compel arbitration. The employee initialed an arbitration provision in the employment application when she applied for employment. That provision incorporated the employer’s arbitration policy, which was found in the employee handbook. The trial court denied the employer’s motion to compel arbitration, and the court of appeals reversed. The court of appeals determined that the provision in the employment application sufficiently expressed an agreement to arbitrate employment disputes. But, arbitration would proceed pursuant to the rules of the CAA, not the procedures in the arbitration policy, because the employer failed to establish that the employee agreed to be governed by those procedures. The arbitration policy was undated, unsigned, not attached to the employment application and was not given to the employee at the time she applied for employment.
Agreements to arbitrate employment related disputes do not have to be long but they must express an agreement to arbitrate. They may even be enforced when they are only signed by the employee, for example, when they are part of an employment application on the employer’s company letterhead and the arbitration provision declares the employer’s intent to be bound by it. Employers who desire procedures for arbitration that diverge from the CAA must ensure that the agreement to proceed by such procedures is clear and lawful, and should require their employees to affirmatively indicate their agreement, such as through their signature on any documents that are part of the agreement to arbitrate.
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Certain wage orders allow employees in the health care industry to voluntarily waive one of their two meal periods on shifts longer than 8 hours. However, they cannot waive their second meal period if their shift is longer than 12 hours. Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Center, 234 Cal.App.4th 285 (2015).