Texas Supreme Court Addresses Jury Trial Waiver in an Employment Law Matter
The Texas Supreme Court recently held that a threat to fire an at-will employee for refusing to sign a jury waiver does not amount to coercion that would invalidate the jury waiver agreement. In re Frank Kent Motor Co., No. 10-0687 (Tex. March 9, 2012), available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2012/mar/100687.pdf.
The at-will employee had worked for the employer for twenty-eight years. Although he initially resisted signing a jury waiver that would require him to forego a jury trial in a dispute with his employer, he immediately signed the jury waiver after his supervisor warned him that he would be fired if he did not. Almost a year later, the employee was terminated. He sued and demanded a jury trial. The employer moved to strike the jury demand, and the trial court denied this motion.
The employee argued that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting him a jury trial because he was coerced into signing the jury waiver by his supervisor’s threat of termination. The Court disagreed: because the employer had the right to fire the employee for almost any reason, including his refusal to sign the jury waiver, threatening to terminate him for failing to sign the waiver could not amount to coercion.
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