California Employment Law Blog

It's in the Handbook: Employee Acknowledgements in Arbitration Agreements

Posted by Timothy B. Del Castillo | Jun 17, 2024 | 0 Comments

Arbitration agreements in employment contracts have become a cornerstone of dispute resolution, offering a private and often more expedient alternative to traditional court litigation. In the case of Carlos Ramirez v. Golden Queen Mining Company, LLC (2024), the complexities of enforcing such agreements were brought to the forefront. 

Arbitration agreements are governed by both state and federal laws, including the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which preempts state laws that undermine the enforceability of arbitration agreements. The California Arbitration Act (CAA) also plays a crucial role, outlining the procedures and requirements for arbitration within the state. Key legal principles include the necessity of a written agreement and the burden of proof lying with the party seeking to enforce the arbitration agreement.

Carlos Ramirez was employed by Golden Queen Mining Company, LLC (Queen Mining) from March 2019 until August 2022 as a non-exempt hourly worker performing electrical tasks. As part of the onboarding process, Ramirez was purportedly provided with an employee handbook that included an arbitration agreement. Ramirez, however, claimed he did not recall ever signing an arbitration agreement or being informed about its existence.

In October 2022, Ramirez filed a class action lawsuit against Queen Mining, alleging violations of various Labor Code provisions, including failure to pay overtime and provide meal periods. In response, Queen Mining moved to compel arbitration, presenting an arbitration agreement and a handbook acknowledgment signed by Ramirez. The trial court denied the motion, finding that Queen Mining failed to demonstrate the existence of an executed arbitration agreement. Queen Mining appealed this decision.

On appeal, the Court reviewed whether Queen Mining had established the existence of an arbitration agreement with Ramirez. To support its claim, Queen Mining presented a copy of the employee handbook and an acknowledgment form signed by Ramirez. 

Ramirez countered with a declaration stating he had no recollection of the agreement and was unaware of its implications. The Court noted that Ramirez's inability to recall signing did not refute the authenticity of his signature. Additionally, Ramirez's declaration did not indicate whether he reviewed the documents provided or specifically address signing the handbook acknowledgement.

The Court, guided by the reasoning in Iyere v. Wise Auto Group (2023), concluded that Ramirez's statement was insufficient to create a factual dispute since he did not explicitly deny the authenticity of his signature. As Ramirez failed to provide sufficient evidence, the burden remained with Queen Mining, and the case was remanded back to the trial court.

The Court of Appeal's analysis emphasizes the importance for employers to have well-documented and clear arbitration agreements, with explicit acknowledgment from employees. Employers should ensure that employees are fully informed about the terms and implications of arbitration agreements. Keeping comprehensive records of signed documents can be crucial in upholding the enforceability of arbitration agreements in legal disputes. Employers must take proactive steps to ensure that arbitration agreements are clearly presented, explained, and acknowledged by employees, thereby safeguarding the enforceability of such agreements in the face of legal challenges.

About the Author

Timothy B. Del Castillo

Tim Del Castillo is Founding Partner of Castle Law: California Employment Counsel, PC.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment


There is no charge for the initial phone consultation. Fill out the contact form on the website with detailed information about your circumstances and we will schedule a telephone appointment.