A former Woodlands Christian Academy teacher will have to pull up a seat at the arbitration table if she wishes to pursue her claims against the school, due to a recent opinion from the Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas.
Last year, Monica Weibust sued the school for constructive discharge, harassment, retaliation and employment discrimination under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, court records show.
In response, Academy answered her suit, went through some discovery, and then filed a motion to compel arbitration.
Weibust agreed to an arbitration clause when she signed her contract and began her employment with the school, court papers say.
She taught school at The Woodlands Christian Academy during the 2008-09 school year.
Montgomery County Judge Kathleen Hamilton, 359th District Court, denied the arbitration motion, prompting the academy to file an appeal in January.
On Oct. 7 Ninth Court justices issued their ruling, opining that the arbitration agreement is valid and enforceable, remanding the case to the trial court for entry of an order compelling arbitration.
"Weibust's claims fall within the scope of the arbitration clause," states the court's opinion, authored by Justice David Gaultney.
"The Academy did not waive arbitration. Weibust did not establish her unconscionability defenses. We reverse the trial court's order denying arbitration and remand the case with instructions for the trial court to compel arbitration of the claims."
On appeal, Weibust had contended the academy waived its right to arbitrate, and that there was an inequality in bargaining power, which rendered the agreement unconscionable, court papers say.
"Weibust did not present evidence to show her alleged lack of bargaining power or inability to negotiate the contract terms," the opinion states. "Mere inequality of bargaining power is not by itself a sufficient reason to hold an arbitration agreement unenforceable in the employment context."
She is represented by The Woodlands attorney Michael A. Starzyk.
The academy is represented by Houston attorneys William S. Helfand and Barbara E. Roberts of the Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin law firm.
Trial case No. 09-10-09979 CV
Appeals case No. 09-10-00010-CV