Employee Cannot be Forced into Arbitration on Sexual Harassment Suit

A chiropractor cannot force a former employee's sexual harassment lawsuit into arbitration, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Monday, finding the worker did not willingly sign an arbitration agreement included in her hiring paperwork.

Christina Imperato sued Medwell LLC and Ali Mazandarani, a chiropractor in the office, in New Jersey state court in 2018, claiming Mazandarani sexually harassed her during her time as a patient coordinator. The chiropractic office asked the judge to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration in light of an arbitration agreement Imperato signed in January 2009 when she started her job.

Both the lower court and appeals court cited the circumstances surrounding the employee signing the document suggesting that she did not knowingly waive her right to have her day in court. The employee said she felt rushed during the process where the doctor reviewed the document in her presence and told her where to sign and initial each page. Also, the doctor never signed the agreement.

This case obviously stands for the proposition that while the courts are leery of agreements between employer and employee whereby an employee gives up the right to bring a lawsuit to court for arbitration instead, the courts are likely to uphold such agreements where it can be proven that the employer offers the employee an opportunity to take the document home and gives the employee an opportunity to review it with an attorney. That is, the courts will approve of arbitration agreement of employment disputes where the circumstances can be shown to demonstrate a “mutual agreement between the parties.”

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