The Appellate Division in a New Jersey court ruled that a jury waiver provision could not be enforced with respect to a former employee’s statutory employment claims. The plaintiff signed an employment agreement with his employer at the time that they waived any right to trial by jury in any action relevant to the agreement. After he was terminated from employment, plaintiff, Noren, filed a lawsuit against his employer, Heartland Payment Systems, Inc., in which Noren claimed that his employer violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”), the employment whistleblower law in New Jersey.
On the basis of the jury-waiver provision in his employment agreement, the court refused his demand for a jury trial, and dismissed his complaint. Noren filed an appeal, in which he disputed the relevance of the jury waiver provision to his CEPA claim. During the appeal, the court concentrated its attention on the fact that CEPA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) explicitly assures you of a right to a jury trial. Thus, the Appellate Court decided that in order for the waiver to be effective, it should explain what right is being relinquished, and the type of claims that are encompassed by the waiver.
The court ruled that the jury waiver was unenforceable because it did not reefer to any statutory claims. Nor did it describe the breadth of the claims to be inclusive of all claims relevant to Noren’s employment. Because of the ruling in Noren, New Jersey employers are advised to reexamine their jury waiver provisions to make certain that they unmistakably provide that an employee waives a right to a jury trial with respect to all claims associated with the person’s employment and termination. In addition, they should contemplate the possibility of mentioning the statutory rights given under CEPA and NJLAD.
If you think your rights have been encroached on by your employer, or if you have confronted discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, contact the employment lawyers at Begelman & Orlow. It is imperative that you obtain counsel, and take the necessary steps to achieve a favorable remedy for your claim.