Swartz Swidler recently prevailed in an appellate court matter dealing with the applicability of a dispute resolution provision of an employment contract.
Swartz Swidler represents Dr. Forrest Anthony, the former vice president and chief medical officer for Eleison Pharmaceuticals, LLC. in Bordentown, New Jersey. In February 2012 the parties entered into an employment agreement. In February 2015, Dr. Anthony terminated the agreement in accordance with its terms. On April 10, 2015 Swartz Swidler, on Dr. Anthony’s behalf, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County asserting that Eleison (1) had only paid Dr. Anthony about 64 percent of the compensation that he was owed pursuant to the employment agreement and (2) had paid Dr. Anthony no compensation at all between September 1, 2014 and February 10, 2015, the date that Dr. Anthony terminated the employment agreement. The lawsuit asserted claims of (1) failure to timely pay all wages due and owing at least once each calendar month, in violation of the New Jersey Wage Payment Law (“NJWPA”); (2) failure to pay minimum wage, in violation of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (“NJWHL”); (3) failure to pay overtime, in violation of the NJWHL, (4) failure to pay all wages due and owing at the end of employment, in violation of the NJWPA, and (5) breach of contract.
Instead of an Answer, Eleison and other Defendants named in the lawsuit filed on Dr. Anthony’s behalf filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and to compel the parties to instead utilize the dispute resolution provision of the employment agreement. Defendants argued that Dr. Anthony’s claims arose from the employment agreement and that Dr. Anthony had agreed to arbitrate all claims, including claims arising from statute, which arose from the employment agreement. At oral argument on the motion, Defendants also argued, for the first time, that a plaintiff’s private right of action under the NJWPA is limited to allegations of the existence of an employment agreement that violates the law. Swartz Swidler opposed Defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss and compelled the parties to utilize the dispute resolution provision of the employment agreement. Swartz Swidler timely appealed the trial court’s decision.
On July 18, 2016, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division – New Jersey’s intermediate appellate court – vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the trial court. The Appellate Division first held that a plaintiff’s private right of action under the NJWPA is not limited to allegations of the existence of an employment agreement that violates the law. It proceeded to hold that “the arbitration clause included no reference to a waiver of plaintiff’s statutory rights or a jury trial. Consequently, it did not constitute a valid waiver of plaintiff’s right to have his claims decided in a judicial forum.”
A copy of the Appellate Division’s opinion in Forrest Anthony v. Eleison Pharmaceuticals, LLC et. al. may be found here.
Swartz Swidler is a law firm that represents employees nationwide on employment issues arising from both federal and state law, including issues such as the inclusion and construction of dispute resolution provisions within employment contracts. If you are an employee that thinks you may need legal assistance as to your employment, please contact the law firm of Swartz Swidler, LLC today.