On September 26, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1241, which addresses choice of law and choice of forum clauses in employment contracts. Simply put, some employers try to force workers to bring any claims they might have (for discrimination, failure to pay wages, etc.) in other states. The most aggressive seek to force workers to bring their claims in other countries. See, for example, Petersen v. Boeing Co. (9th Cir. 2013) 715 F.3d 276, in which the employer attempted to compel the plaintiff to litigate his claims in Saudi Arabia.
Choice of forum clauses are particularly burdensome for low wage workers. It is often a challenge for these workers to find an attorney to represent them, in part because their claims are generally thought to be worth less money. A choice of forum clause requiring a worker to litigate in another state renders it even more difficult to find an attorney willing to take the case.
Beginning on January 1, 2017, California workers will have an important tool to combat choice of forum clauses. The new Labor Code section 925 will prohibit employers from requiring employees who primarily reside and work in California to agree that they must bring employment-related claims outside of California, provided that the employees’ claims arise in California. Under section 925, such contractual provisions are voidable, and any dispute over them must be heard and decided in California. Additionally, section 925 provides for attorney’s fees to an employee who is enforcing rights under that section. Continue reading