10-13-09: The West Virginia Supreme Court addressed the enforceability of employment arbitration agreements in State ex rel. Clites v. Clawges, 224 W. Va. 299, 685 S.E.2d 693 (2009) (opinion at Findlaw’s web site). This Clites decision is discussed in my chart of West Virginia Supreme Court decisions.
Clites Goes To Work For TeleTech And Signs An Arbitration Agreement
The plaintiff, Jill Clites, went to work for TeleTech in October 2004 as a Customer Service Representative. During new employee orientation, Clites met with a human resources representative for about 90 to 120 minutes, during which time Clites reviewed and signed a large number of documents related to the orientation. In the record before the West Virginia Supreme Court, there were disputes over whether individual documents were discussed with Clites and whether she was required to sing all the documents during the orientation session, but it appears that during that session Clites signed an arbitration agreement which TeleTech required of most or all new employees.
Clites remained employed at TeleTech until July 12, 2007, when she was terminated. She then filed suit for sexual harassment and retaliation. Clites alleged she complained about the sexual harassment, that TeleTech failed to take appropriate corrective action, and that TeleTech retaliated against her for the complaint by firing her.
Clites Files Suit In West Virginia Circuit Court
Clites filed suit in West Virginia Circuit Court in Morgantown. TeleTech then invoked the arbitration agreement by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and by filing a separate lawsuit in federal court arguing that Clites waived her rights to a jury trial by signing the arbitration agreement. In essence, TeleTech argued that Clites gave up her rights to file suit and to a jury trial by signing the arbitration agreement, and that her only remedy was to file an arbitration proceeding (with the American Arbitration Association) pursuant to the arbitration agreement.