Judge says narrow drafting dooms bid by Trump campaign to arbitrate bias suit
Casper1774 Studio / Shutterstock.com
A narrowly drafted arbitration clause in a confidentiality agreement doesn’t require arbitration of a bias suit filed by a former Trump campaign staffer, according to a New York judge.
Judge Arlene Bluth of the trial-level Supreme Court of New York ruled there is no need to send the case to an arbitrator because the “narrow arbitration clause” does not apply to employment disputes. “It isn’t even a close question,” Bluth wrote.
Yahoo News covered the Aug. 7 decision, which was posted Thursday in a tweet by the plaintiff, Jessica Denson. According to Yahoo, the ruling suggests there could be drafting weaknesses in nondisclosure agreements signed by other staff members of the campaign, the Trump Organization and the White House, including Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Denson claims in her pro se lawsuit that she was harassed by her supervisor and other campaign staffers after she received a promotion to work on Hispanic outreach. The Trump campaign told the court that employment-related disputes were subject to arbitration. Denson countered that the agreement to arbitrate in her nondisclosure agreement was not part of any employment agreement.
Bluth agreed with Denson.
As an initial matter, the court observes that the arbitration clause confines arbitration to ‘any dispute arising under or relating to this agreement,’ ” Bluth wrote. “It does not require arbitration for any ‘dispute between the parties’ or even ‘any dispute arising out of plaintiff’s employment.’ ”
Bluth said the nondisclosure agreement only lists five prohibited acts, including bans on disclosure of confidential information and disparagement. The agreement says nothing about terms of employment, and it is simply titled “agreement,” not “employment agreement,” Bluth said.
“There is simply no way to construe this arbitration clause in this agreement to prevent plaintiff from pursuing harassment claims in court,” Bluth wrote. “The arbitration clause could have been written to require any disputes arising out of plaintiff’s employment to go to arbitration or that any claims brought by plaintiff against defendant must be sent to arbitration. But it did not.”
According to Yahoo, the controlling precedent is ironically a 1993 case in which Donald Trump fought arbitration of a dispute among the owners of a hotel.
Denson has filed a separate suit in federal court that seeks to void the nondisclosure agreement.