enforceability of arbitration clause in employee handbook

Domenichetti v. Salter School, LLC, Civil Action No. 12–11311–FDS (D. Mass. Apr. 19, 2013)

Recently, a federal district court in Massachusetts denied an employer’s motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  This case illustrates the importance of state law when analyzing the enforceability of an arbitration agreement under the Federal Arbitration Act.  The arbitration agreement was found in an employee handbook.  The federal court found that under state contract law of Massachusetts, the employee handbook was not a contract, particularly where the employer had the unilateral right to modify the handbook terms, and hence the arbitration clause was not enforceable.  In trying to enforce, or avoid the enforcement, of an arbitration clause, careful attention must be paid to state contract law.