Ramos v. Superior CourtAnnotate this Case
Ramos, an experienced litigator and patent practitioner with a doctorate in biophysics, was hired as a Winston law firm “Income Partner.” After allegedly being denied recognition for her work, excluded from opportunities for career advancement, evaluated based on the success of her male colleagues, and denied compensation and bonuses to which she was entitled, Ramos sued, asserting discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and anti-fair-pay practices. Winston moved to compel arbitration under the partnership agreement Ramos signed after joining the firm. Ramos argued she was an “employee,” not a partner, so that precedent (Armendariz) applied and that the arbitration provision failed to meet Armendariz's minimum requirements arbitration of unwaivable statutory claims. The trial court found that Ramos was “in a partnership relationship” for purposes of the motion, severed provisions related to venue and cost-sharing, and granted Winston’s motion. The court of appeal reversed. Under the Armendariz analysis, the agreement is unconscionable and the taint of illegality cannot be removed by severing the unlawful provisions without altering the nature of the parties’ agreement. Provisions requiring Ramos to pay half the costs of arbitration, pay her own attorney fees, restricting the ability of the arbitrators to “override” or “substitute its judgment” for that of the partnership, and the confidentiality clause, are unconscionable and significantly inhibit Ramos’s ability to pursue her unwaivable statutory claims.