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Employment ADR: Ninth Circuit Denies Circuit City Stores Inc. Move to Compel Arbitration (Web)

Circuit City Stores Inc.’s long employment arbitration history in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals grew with the appeals court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration, in Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Mantor, No. 04-55912, 2005 WL 1813318 at *3 (9th Cir. Aug. 3, 2005)(available at$file/0455912.pdf?openelement). It is the second time the electronics retailer has moved to compel arbitration against plaintiff Paul Mantor, and the second time the Ninth Circuit rejected the request.
Using its recent decision in another employment arbitration case, Ingle v. Circuit City, 408 F.3d 592, 595 (9th Cir. 2005), the Ninth Circuit held that its decision in EEOC v. Luce,Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, 345 F.3d 742 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) did not overrule its previousMantorholding, where the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court decision sending the case to arbitration.

In the first Mantor decision--at Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Mantor, 335 F.3d 1101, 1109 (9th Cir. 2003)--the Ninth Circuit said that an agreement requiring arbitration of discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a condition of Circuit City employment was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable under California contract law.

In Luce, Forward, which followed the first Mantor decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the Civil Rights Act of 1991 did not preclude enforcement of agreements requiring arbitration of Title VII claims as a condition of employment. Luce, 345 F.3d at 749.

In Luce, Forward’s wake, early last year Circuit City filed a “renewed petition to compel arbitration” in Mantor. In its unanimous Aug. 3 panel decision written by Judge Harry Pregerson, the appeals court rejected Circuit City’s argument that Luce, Forward constituted an intervening change in Ninth Circuit law. Circuit City, 2005 WL 1813318 at *3.

The decision rejected Circuit City’s argument that Luce, Forward changed Ninth Circuit law on procedural unconscionability, citing its recent Ingle holding.