Is Your Handbook Translated into Another Language?

In Juarez v. Wash Depot Holdings, Inc., California court found the arbitration agreement in the employee handbook unenforceable. Why? The English-language handbook stated that the denial of the right to bring a PAGA action was severable if the denial was found by a court to be unenforceable, but the Spanish-language version said the provision was not severable. Juarez actually signed both acknowledgments—one in Spanish and one in English. Hmm. The court had little sympathy for defendant's language issues: “Under the circumstances, we construe the ambiguous language against the interest of the party that drafted it. This rule applies with particular force in the case of a contract of adhesion. Indeed, Wash Depot may have left the meaning of severability ‘deliberately obscure, intending to decide at a later date what meaning to assert.’”

If you decide to translate your legal documents into a different language, make sure a bilingual attorney reads it, because details matter.


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