Ashbey was employed from December 1996 until November 2010, when he was discharged. He started with Archstone as a service technician and was promoted to regional service manager. In 2009, Ashbey signed a document titled, "Acknowledgment of Receipt of Archstone Company Policy Manual 2009" that mentioned the employer's dispute resolution policy, which explained the employer's arbitration policy. In November 2011, Ashbey sued alleging unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII and equivalent state-law claims and demanded a jury trial. The employer filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the manual's dispute resolution policy. The trial court denied the motion.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit addressed the trial court's refusal to compel arbitration of Ashbey's Title VII discrimination claim and its state-law equivalents on the ground that Ashbey did not knowingly waive his Title VII right to a jury trial.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court and held that Ashbey knowingly waived his right to a judicial forum for his Title VII claim and equivalent state-law claims, and remanded for entry of an order granting the motion to compel arbitration. The court found that this case was distinguishable from prior cases where arbitration was not compelled because the acknowledgment that the employee signed for the handbook which in turn contained the arbitration clause did not state that there was an arbitration clause in the handbook nor that the employee was waiving his rights to resolve claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act in a judicial forum. See Nelson v. Cyprus Bagdad Copper Corp 119 F3d 756, 760 (1997). In contrast, in Archstone, the employee signed an acknowledgement that explicitly notified him that the employer's company policy manual contained a dispute resolution policy section explaining the employer's arbitration policy, and the employee expressly agreed to adhere to the policy. Thus, the Court held that the employee’s waiver was a knowing waiver and that the arbitration provision was enforceable.
The lesson from this case is to list the arbitration policy as one of the policies the employee has read in the receipt of acknowledgment of the handbook if you are not getting a signature on the arbitration clause itself.