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Friday, September 12, 2014

Cruise v. Kroger: In Absence of Arbitration Policy Applicable to Employee, Arbitration Would Be Conducted Pursuant to California Arbitration Act

In Cruise v. Kroger Co. (8/27/14) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the plaintiff filed suit against her former employer for harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and related claims. The trial court denied the defendants' motion to compel arbitration, and the defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding as follows:

The plaintiff had signed an employment application that included a broadly-worded arbitration clause, which constituted an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. 
Slip op. at 9-10. The plaintiff's employment-related claims all fell within the scope of that agreement. 

Even though the defendants could not establish the precise terms of the applicable arbitration policy, which was incorporated by reference into the employment application's arbitration clause, the plaintiff was not relieved of her obligation to arbitrate her claims. Slip op. at 10-11. Instead, the arbitration would be conducted pursuant to the procedures set forth in the California Arbitration Act. As a result, the plaintiff could not argue that the arbitration clause was procedurally or substantively unconscionable. 

The Court concluded: 
Nothing herein should be construed as enabling an employer to enforce a missing arbitration agreement. We merely hold the language of the arbitration clause in the instant employment application, standing alone, was sufficient to establish an agreement by the parties to arbitrate employment-related disputes. While the parties’ agreement to arbitrate is enforceable, the employer’s inability to establish the contents of its Arbitration Policy precludes the employer from enforcing the provisions of said policy. Instead, the arbitration proceeding is to be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the CAA as well as applicable case law.
The opinion is available here.

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