November 9, 2016
In an important victory for workers’ rights, the California Court of Appeals refused to order a fast-food worker to arbitrate his wage and hour claims against a Taco Bell franchisee, Century Fast Foods. Attorneys from Matern Law Group, PC argued that an arbitration agreement, like any agreement, requires the mutual assent of the parties, and that Plaintiff Jesus Mendoza never agreed to arbitrate any claims against Century Fast Foods when he filled out a job application bearing the name Taco Bell Corporation. Accordingly, Mendoza’s attorneys claimed that he deserves to have his case heard by a jury of his peers as opposed to by a judge for hire in a confidential arbitration proceeding. The California Court of Appeals agreed, paving the way for Mr. Mendoza’s class action to proceed in the Superior Court.
In upholding the decision of the Honorable Elihu M. Berle, the Court of Appeals rejected Century’s claims that it was a “related company” as that terms was used in the agreement. The Court found that Century failed to prove that Plaintiff Mendoza knew that the ambiguous phrase, “related companies,” meant that he was agreeing to arbitrate his claims with Century at the time he filled out his application.
According to Mendoza’s attorney, Mathew J. Matern, “this decision marks an important victory for working people, employees who have been forced to pursue their claims through arbitration without ever knowing what rights they were giving up. Study after study have confirmed what practitioners have known for years—arbitration unfairly favors employers, and deprives working people of their rights. We are very pleased by this decision and look forward to fighting on behalf of Mr. Mendoza and the class of workers he seeks to represent.”
A copy of this decision can be found at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/B267158.PDF [PDF]