OTO, L.L.C. v. Kho

Kho worked as a mechanic for One Toyota (OTO) from 2010-2014, when his employment was terminated. Kho filed a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner. After settlement discussions failed, OTO filed a petition to compel arbitration. Under the arbitration agreement, which OTO required Kho to execute without explanation, the wage claim was subject to binding arbitration conducted by a retired superior court judge. Because the intended procedure incorporated many of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Evidence Code, the anticipated arbitration proceeding would resemble ordinary civil litigation. The trial court denied the petition to compel. Under the state supreme court’s 2013 “Sonic-Calabasas” decision, an arbitration agreement that waives the various advantageous provisions of the Labor Code governing the litigation of a wage claim is substantively unconscionable if it fails to provide the employee with an affordable and accessible alternative forum. The trial court concluded that the alternative anticipated by OTO’s arbitration agreement failed this standard because it effectively required Kho to retain counsel and did not expressly provide for him to recover his attorney fees if he prevailed. The court of appeal reversed, concluding the arbitration proceeding satisfies the Sonic requirements of affordability and accessibility. View "OTO, L.L.C. v. Kho" on Justia Law