Employment Law: Wavier of Jury Trial

By: Donna Russo, Esq.

In Noren v. Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. (App. Div. 2017), the Appellate Division, in a reported decision on February 6, 2017, ruled that a waiver of a jury trial does not need any magical language in a contract but that “the provision must be grounded in ‘plain language that would be clear and understandable to the average’ person that statutory rights are being waived.”

In this case, the plaintiff was denied a jury trial on a CEPA claim.  The employment contract contained a jury-waiver provision.  The provision stated that the parties “irrevocably waive any right to trial by jury in any suit, action or proceeding under, in connection with or to enforce this Agreement.”

The Appellate Division ruled: “in short, to effect a waiver, the language must clearly explain (1) what right is being surrendered and (2) the nature of the claims covered by the waiver.”  The Court found that the jury-waiver provision made no reference to statutory claims and did not define the scope of claims as including all claims relating to employment.  The Appellate Division reversed the judgment and remanded for a jury trial.