Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Employer: Texas Venue Same as Calfironia (Yeah, that's the Ticket ...)

Verdugo v. Alliantgroup, L.P. No. G049139 (D4d3 as modified June 25, 2015)

Plaintiff, a Californian, is suing her Texas-headquartered employer. Plaintiff’s employment contract has a Texas choice of law and lays venue in Austin. But Plaintiff’s wage-and-hour claims arise from California statutes that can’t be waived. Under the circumstances, the usual presumption—that a court will enforce a contractual choice of venue—gets reversed. The venue provision will only be enforced if the moving party can show that the contractual venue will not diminish Plaintiff
s unwaivable statutory rights in any way.

In assessing whether Defendant met its burden, the court of appeal here pauses to part company with Hall, v. Superior Court, 150 Cal. App. 3d 411, 416 (1983) and America Online, Inc. v. Superior Court, 90 Cal. App. 4th 1, 11 (2001), which hold that the analysis does not entail a comparison between California law and the substantive law of the contractual state. Even given, however, that a moving party can meet its burden by showing that the contractual forum would definitely apply California law or identical standards under its own state law, Defendant didn’t satisfy that burden here. The most it would say was that a Texas court would probably apply California law. But Defendant also “carefully preserved its ability to argue to a Texas court that it should apply Texas law,” and even “hinted at its intention to do so by seeking to downplay the significance of the statutory rights [plaintiff] seeks to enforce through this action.” Moreover, Defendant did not establish that substantive Texas law affords statutory rights identical to the California Labor Code provisions on which plaintiff’s suit is based.

Reversed.

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