Washington state’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a pizza delivery driver’s class action lawsuit that Seattle-based Pagliacci Pizza fought hard to keep out of the public eye by settling it in closed-door arbitration.
The justices ruled unanimously on Aug. 20 that Pagliacci driver Steven Burnett never had a chance to review the company’s mandatory arbitration clause before signing his employment agreement in 2015.
When Burnett sued the company in October 2017 for allegedly underpaying its drivers and shorting them on rest and meal breaks, Pagliacci tried to move the case to arbitration in line with policy outlined in its company handbook.
Last year, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that Pagliacci’s arbitration agreement was “buried” in the 23-page employee handbook and thus unenforceable because Burnett didn’t have a “reasonable opportunity” to comprehend the information before agreeing to it.
The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Burnett “lacked meaningful choice.”
“Because essential terms were hidden and Burnett had no reasonable opportunity to understand the arbitration policy before signing the employment contract, the manner in which the contract was entered demonstrated that Burnett lacked a meaningful choice regarding the arbitration policy,” Justice Barbara Madsen wrote.
“(W)e hold that even if an arbitration agreement was indeed established, it was procedurally unconscionable and unenforceable.”
Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us if you have been denied access to rest and meal breaks, underpaid, or you have an L&I, workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.