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Cruise v. Kroger Co.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Third Division

August 27, 2014

STEPHANIE CRUISE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
KROGER CO., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

[REHEARING GRANTED 9-25-14]

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC489042 Suzanne G. Bruguera, Judge.

Page 216

COUNSEL

Littler Mendelson, Jeremy A. Roth, Henry D. Lederman and Emily T. Patajo for Defendants and Appellants.

The Law Offices of Maryann P. Gallagher and Maryann P. Gallagher for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Page 217

OPINION

ALDRICH, J.

Defendants and appellants Kroger Co., Kroger Manufacturing, Compton Creamery, Keith Oldenkamp, Steve Kuebbing, Jesse Turner, Keith Henry, Jill McIntosh and Tony Ramirez (sometimes collectively referred to as Kroger or the Kroger defendants) appeal an order denying their motion to compel arbitration of an employment discrimination action filed by plaintiff and respondent Stephanie Cruise (Cruise).[1]

At the time Cruise applied for employment with Kroger in 2007, she completed an employment application which contained an arbitration clause requiring arbitration of employment-related disputes. The employment application also incorporated by reference Kroger’s Mediation & Binding Arbitration Policy (Arbitration Policy or Policy).

The trial court denied Kroger’s motion to compel arbitration, ruling that Kroger failed to meet its burden to prove the existence of an arbitration agreement. The trial court was not persuaded the undated four-page arbitration policy attached to Kroger’s moving papers was extant at the time Cruise read and signed the employment application, and that it was the same Arbitration Policy to which the employment application referred.

We conclude the arbitration clause in the employment application, standing alone, is sufficient to establish the parties agreed to arbitrate their employment-related disputes, and that Cruise’s claims against Kroger fall within the ambit of the arbitration agreement. The only impact of Kroger’s inability to establish the contents of the 2007 Arbitration Policy is that Kroger failed to establish the parties agreed to govern their arbitration by procedures different from those prescribed in the California Arbitration Act (CAA) (§ 1280 et seq.). Therefore, the arbitration is to be governed by the CAA, rather than by the procedures set forth in the employer’s Arbitration Policy. Accordingly, the order denying the motion to compel arbitration is reversed with directions to grant the motion.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. Events preceding litigation.

On October 20, 2007, Cruise completed and signed an employment application for the position of Human Resources Assistant Manager at Compton Creamery & Deli Kitchen, and appeared for an interview at that location.

Page 218

The employment application included the following provision, which Cruise separately initialed, and which stated in relevant part: “MANDATORY FINAL & BINDING ARBITRATION: I acknowledge and understand that the Company has a Dispute Resolution Program that includes a Mediation & Binding Arbitration Policy (the ‘Policy’) applicable to all employees and applicants for employment.... I acknowledge, understand and agree that the Policy is incorporated into this Employment Application by this reference as though it is set forth in full, that except for claims or disputes arising out of the terms and conditions of any applicable CBA [collective bargaining agreement] (‘Excluded Disputes’) the Policy applies to any employment-related disputes that exist or arise between Employees and the Company or ‘Compton Creamery’ (as defined in the Policy) that would constitute cognizable claims or causes of action in a court or government agency under applicable law including individual statutory claims or disputes (‘Covered Disputes’), that Covered Disputes are such claims or disputes that have to do with an Employee’s seeking, attempted, actual, or alleged employment with the Company or Compton creamery (or any of them) other than Excluded Disputes, and that the Policy requires that any Employee who wishes to initiate or participate in formal proceedings to resolve any Covered Disputes must submit the claims or disputes to final and binding arbitration in accordance with the Policy. I acknowledge, understand, and agree that (1) if any Covered Disputes exist or arise between me and the Company or Compton Creamery (or any of them), other than any Excluded Disputes, I am bound by the provisions, terms and conditions of the Policy which provides for mediation and mandatory final and binding arbitration of any Covered Disputes; (2) I am and will hereafter be deemed and treated as an ‘Employee’ as defined in the Policy for the purposes thereof, (3) there are no judge or jury trials of any Covered Disputes permitted under the Policy, (4) I waive any right that I have or may have to a judge or jury trial of any Covered Disputes, (5) I waive any right that I have or may have to have any formal dispute resolution proceedings concerning any Covered Disputes take place in a local, state, or federal court or agency and to have such proceedings heard or presided over by an active local, state, or federal judge, judicial officer, or administrative officer, (6) all Covered Disputes must be heard, determined and resolved only by an Arbitrator through final and binding arbitration in accordance with the Policy, (7) the Company likewise agrees to mandatory final and binding arbitration of any Covered Disputes, whether initiated or participated in by me or by the Company, in accordance with the Policy, and (8) I have received a copy of the Policy or one has been made available to me through the Company’s Human Resource Manager, 2201 South Wilmington Ave,, Compton, CA 90220.” (Italics added.)

Page 219

The above mentioned Arbitration Policy was not attached to the employment application and Cruise stated the Policy was not provided to her at the time she applied for employment.

On December 7, 2007, seven weeks after Cruise submitted the employment application, she was hired by Compton Creamery. On April 1, ...


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