In Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend, LLP v. Vance, the United States District Court (Western District, Austin) held that a law firm did "fairly suggest to employees that the firm was implementing a mandatory, binding arbitration policy" and denied the firm's motion to compel arbitration.
According to the decision, ADJT terminated Vance's employement with the firm. The firm sued Vance on causes of action including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and the Texas Theft Liability Ace. Vance, a non-equity partner, counterclaimed for conversion, breach of contract, negligence, and violations of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. ADJT moved to compel all claims to arbitration. Vance responded that there was no valid arbitration agreement.
The court found that ADJT emailed its employees, under the subject line "Firm Policies" that it was "organizing, updating, and supplementing the firm's employeee and practice policies," including a dispute resolution program. The email gave directions on how to electronically access the updated Employee Handbook. The email did not include any "substantive information regarding the Dispute Resolution Program" nor did it use the word "arbitration."
The court held that the notice of the arbitration was insufficient. Instead, ADJT should have attached the policy to the email, according to the court.
ADJT also raised the issue that Vance had implied notice of the provision, and had a duty to make further inquiry. Similarly, the court rejected this argument because the email did not "fairly suggest to employees that the firm was implementing a mandatory, binding arbitration policy."
In sum, the court concluded that the firm did not establish that Vance received sufficient express or implied notice of the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the firm's motion to compel arbitration was denied.
Thanks to Ronnie Hornberger for bringing this decision to our attention.
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