Employee Handbook Acknowledgment Language Is Critical To Arbitration Enforcement

Employee Handbook Acknowledgment Language Is Critical To Arbitration Enforcement

Employee Handbook

Navigating Dual Representation in Small Company Litigation

In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeals for the Second District affirmed the denial of an employer’s motion to compel arbitration in spite of the fact that the employee handbook contained a detailed arbitration clause.  The case is Esparza v. Sand & Sea (Aug. 22, 2016).  In Esparza, the employee had received an employee handbook containing the standard language that it did not constitute a contract express or implied.  This language is standard in handbooks in order to avoid the argument that the constitutes an employment contract and thus transforms the employment relationship from at will to contract.

The handbook contained other policies, “Agreement to Arbitrate”.  It read: “I acknowledge that I received Sand & Sea Inc.’s {Shore Hotel) Employee Handbook”

The Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the employer’s motion to compel arbitration, reasoning that there was nothing in the handbook that gave the employee notice that by executing the acknowledgement she was agreeing to arbitrate future employment disputes.

The Court specifically distinguished the recent appellate decision in Harris v. The employee handbook utilized by the defendant in Harris (which was prepared by FLG) contained specific language that “[I]f Employee voluntarily continues his/her employment with TAP Worldwide, LLC after the effective date of this Policy [or January 1, 2010], Employee will be deemed to have knowingly and voluntarily consented to and accepted all of the terms and conditions set forth herein without exception.”  According to the Court in Esparza, “No such contractual language existed here.”

While employee handbooks have become a standard part of most employers’ new hire packets, the law concerning these instruments is constantly evolving.  FLG regularly litigates labor and employment issues for clients.  FLG attorneys also assist clients with Human Resources Management by preparing employment packets that include handbooks, arbitration agreements and the like.

Call Now