Teukolsky Law Files NEW Lawsuit UNDER AB 51 CHALLENGING EMPLOYER'S REQUIREMENT THAT EMPLOYEE WAIVE HER ACCESS TO COURTS AS A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT
On Friday, April 8, Teukolsky Law filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of April Blackwell, a 37-year-old Black woman, against The Pendry West Hollywood, a luxury hotel owned by Montage International on the iconic Sunset Strip. The lawsuit is the first of its kind, alleging that the Pendry terminated Ms. Blackwell because she said she did not want to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement giving up her ability to sue the Pendry for race discrimination and similar claims in a court of law.
Forcing job applicants and employees to sign forced arbitration agreements was recently made illegal in California by Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51). Under forced arbitration agreements, all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. As a condition of employment, The Pendry required Ms. Blackwell to give up her right to access the courts, her right to a jury trial, her right to appeal an erroneous decision, and her right to conduct full discovery to prosecute her claims. When she refused to give up her rights, the Pendry fired her after just one day of work.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 51 into law in late 2019 after widespread public outrage over arbitration agreements that hid allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures. The fate of AB 51 is currently in limbo. In 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of United States v. Bonta, 13 F.4th 766, 771 (9th Cir. 2021) (“Bonta”). However, the Ninth Circuit is deferring a vote on whether to rehear Bonta until after the United States Supreme Court issues a ruling in another arbitration case argued in late March 2022.
Still, even if AB 51 is ultimately struck down, Ms. Blackwell’s claims against the Pendry will survive because California law protects employees who are terminated for expressing opposition to conduct they reasonably believe is unlawful, which is exactly what Ms. Blackwell did.
To view the complaint, click here.
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Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.