Arbitration Agreement Key to Morton's Sexual Harassment Case
Reggie Williams says he had no knowledge of an agreement restaurant says he signed
By Willard Shepard | Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012
Reggie Williams says he saw terrible things as a chef at one of South Florida’s most well-known high-end restaurants — and is learning that an arbitration agreement he says he didn’t sign might prevent him from talking much more about it.
Williams sued the Morton’s in Boca Raton, claiming sexual harassment and alleging that one Morton’s chef would remove asparagus from his genitals and serve it to the restaurant’s paying customers.
“He was going to take the stalk of asparagus, after blanching the asparagus and prepping the asparagus, and put it inside his pants,” Williams said.
But now, Williams said, Morton’s is trying to force him into arbitration – a procedure where a single individual will decide his complaint in private.
Morton’s legal filing says Williams’ agreement to be bound by the arbitration policy is clearly enforceable. But he says “it’s a booby trap, and in my case I had no knowledge of it.”
He contends the arbitration agreement Morton’s says he signed to work there does not have his valid signature.
But Morton’s emphasizes that Williams did sign the paperwork like any of their workers.
Whether the arbitration agreement is deemed valid will have significant ramifications for Williams’ lawsuit.
“If arbitration is granted, this will be the last time any member of the public will hear about Reggie’s case,” said his attorney, David Pyper.
Williams will be in court later this month hoping to keep what he says happened at Morton’s from being pushed behind closed doors.
He and Pyper say you too have such arbitration agreements for things like cell phones, credit cards, and car contracts.
Pyper says if you want fight an arbitration agreement with your cell phone company or credit card company, the only way to do so is to show there was fraud or that the agreement was completely unfair.
Pull out your agreements at work and home and carefully read the fine print, Pyper advises.
“The problem is people don’t find it until it’s too late and they have a problem,” he said.