The panel reversed the district court denial of defendants’ motion to compel arbitration of statutory employment discrimination and civil rights claims, and remanded with the direction that all claims be sent to arbitration and the case be dismissed without prejudice.
When Shannon Zoller became an investment banker with GCA Advisors, LLC, she signed an employment contract that included an arbitration agreement, and she also signed a Form U4, as required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. GCA later fired her, and she brought an action alleging various contract claims, as well as statutory claims under the Equal Pay Act, California’s Fair Pay Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The parties stipulated to arbitrate some of Zoller’s claims, but the district court denied GCA’s motion to compel arbitration of the statutory employment discrimination and civil rights claims because it held that Zoller did not knowingly waive her right to pursue these claims in court.
The panel stated that, under Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), while not all statutory claims may be appropriate for arbitration, if a party agreed to arbitrate, the party will be held to that agreement unless the party can prove a congressional intent to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory rights at issue. Zoller, therefore, carried the burden to show such an intention. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Lai, 42 F.3d 1299 (9th Cir. 1994), extended Gilmer to Title VII claims and held that there must be at least a knowing agreement to arbitrate employment disputes before an employee may be deemed to have waived judicial remedies.
The panel assumed, without deciding, that this knowing waiver requirement remained good law and was applicable to the statutes at issue. The panel concluded that the arbitration agreement included clear language encompassing employment disputes, and the evidence showed that Zoller knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum to resolve her statutory claims. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court’s denial of GCA’s motion to compel arbitration of these claims.