Federal Court Denies Employer’s Request to Enforce Arbitration Agreement Against Minor
In the case, Davis v. Panda Express Inc., et al., the Western District of Kentucky ruled against Defendants, Panda Express, because it found that the arbitration agreement that was entered into by the Plaintiff, MeKenna Davis, was not reaffirmed. Davis was a minor at the time she entered into the contract with Panda Express. Since minors do not have the capacity to enter into a contract, when they become an adult, they have to reaffirm their assent to the contract or otherwise ratify the contract through their words or actions.
The Plaintiff was represented by Courtney Graham and Randall Strause at Strause Law Group, PLLC. The Defendants were represented by Jay Inman and Bianca Black from Littler Mendelson, P.S.C., a law firm concentrating on employment and labor law. On October 7, 2021, Judge Rebecca Jennings denied Panda Express’s arbitration motion.
When Davis began employment at Panda Express, she was a minor. As a new hire, she automatically entered into the arbitration agreement. The arbitration program provides that the employees must enroll in it to agree to arbitration and complete an electronic module. Panda Express claimed that the agreement was voided when she turned 18. Even if Panda Express is correct in that assertion, Davis did not assent to arbitration through her continued employment thereafter. With that, the Court found that she did not reaffirm her assent to the arbitration program, and her continued employment with the restaurant chain did not constitute consent to arbitration.
Altogether, Davis’s continued employment past turning the age of majority did not constitute a manifestation of assent. Therefore, the arbitration agreement could not be enforced, and Panda Express’s motion was denied.
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