Thursday, July 5, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Arbitration Properly Denied Based on Verbiage In Spanish-Language Version of Handbook
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district on Tuesday affirmed the denial of an employer’s petition to compel arbitration because the Spanish language version of its handbook, which required arbitration, also barred suits under the California Private Attorneys General Act, and declared that if that provision were invalidated, it would not be severable from the other provisos.
In 2014, the California Supreme Court held in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, that PAGA waivers are against public policy.
Div. Six was unswayed by the fact that the English version of the handbook stated that the PAGA waiver clause was severable, and set forth that “[a]ny ambiguity between this Handbook and any translated version will be governed by the English version.”
Discretion Not Abused
Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six wrote:
“[T]he trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to sever the PAGA waiver and enforce the remaining arbitration agreement….
“At best, the difference in the severability clauses in the English-language and Spanish-language versions of the handbook is negligent; at worse, it is deceptive.”
Because the language was ambiguous, Gilbert said, it must be construed against the party that drafted it, which was the employer.
The action was brought by Carlos Juarez against the owners of the car wash where he works, Wash Depot, alleging various violations of the Labor Code.
Juarez was two days late in opposing the motion to compel arbitration. The employers argued that, because of the tardiness, which was not explained, Ventura Superior Court Judge Kent M. Kellegrew was unreasonable in considering the plaintiff’s opposition.
“Wash Depot did not establish prejudice other than perhaps the inconvenience of working on the weekend. In view of the strong policy of the law favoring the disposition of cases on the merits, the court did not abuse its discretion.”
The case is Juarez v. Wash Depot Holdings, Inc., B282667.
Juarez was represented by Jack Bazerkanian of Shin Ryu Bazerkanian, LLP in Los Angeles, as well as James M. Lee and Caleb H. Liang of LTL Attorneys LLP, also in Los Angeles. The employers were represented by Kevin V. Koligian and Andrew H. Woo of Littler Mendelson, P.C.’s Fresno office.
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