Attorney-Employees Take Note

Spoiler alert. Employees seeking to invalidate an agreement to arbitrate employment disputes on grounds that they did not knowingly waive their right to a judicial forum likely will not be happy with an opinion that begins by noting the employee “is a former corporate attorney who became an investment banker.”

Thus, in Zoller v. GCA Advisors, LLC, the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court and rejected plaintiff’s contention that she had not knowingly waived her right to bring statutory claims against her employer, finding that “employment disputes are encompassed by the arbitration provisions, and she knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum.” As the court explained, the employee “had full access to the various documents with arbitration provisions and was given ‘the opportunity to consult with legal counsel of [her] choice before signing’ both the contract and the employee confidentiality, nonsolicitation and arbitration agreement.” Moreover, as the court explained, the employee “did not sign acknowledgement of receipt forms or a vague U4 form; she signed and accepted multiple documents with parallel arbitration provisions that tied arbitration to employment disputes.”

As the court concluded, the employee’s “alleged subjective misunderstanding of the documents is not dispositive because our analysis rests on the explicit terms of the agreement.”

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