California First Appellate District’s recent decision in Subcontracting Concepts, LLC v. DeMelo, A152205 (April 10, 2019) applies well-established unconscionability principles to an arbitration agreement signed by an employee of an independent contractor.
The employee, DeMelo, was hired directly by Express Messenger Systems, Inc. (d/b/a OnTrac), which contracted with Subcontracting Concepts, LLC (SC). At the start of his eCamployment, DeMelo was required to sign SC’s “Owner/Operator Agreement,” a five-page, 27-paragraph agreement with an arbitration clause in paragraph 26. Two and one-half years later, DeMelo filed a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner. The two corporate entities and several individually-named supervisors petitioned to compel arbitration and stay the Labor Commissioner proceeding. The San Francisco Superior Court denied the petition, finding the arbitration agreement to be unconscionable. The First Appellate District agreed, and certified this case for publication.