John Elway Toyota Race Discrimination

Case name: Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc. et al.

Case type: Race Discrimination

Filed in: [Los Angeles County Superior Court]

Docket: [Case No.: BC476523  ]

Case Summary

In February 2012, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed an individual and class action complaint against Lebo Automotive, Inc., doing business as John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota, on behalf of Timothy Sandquist and other employees of color at the auto dealership.

The Complaint alleged that the Manhattan Beach, California dealership subjected Sandquist, an 11-year sales employee, and other employees of non-European descent to rampant racial discrimination and harassment and denied them promotions, opportunities for advancement, and equal pay.

As a condition of employment at the dealership, Sanquist and all members of the class had been compelled to sign new-hire paperwork that ran to more than 100 pages and included a waiver of their right to class and representative arbitration of any disputes.

In 2012, on the basis of this waiver, Defendants filed a successful Motion to Compel Individual Arbitration and to have the class claims dismissed.

In April 2013, Sanford Heisler Sharp appealed to the California 2nd District Court of Appeal. The Appellant Brief noted that the language surrounding the class waiver was misleading and confusing, and that the Plaintiff, in order to begin his employment, had been forced to sign the agreement without being given an adequate chance for review.

In June 2014, the California Appellate Court overturned the lower court ruling dismissing the class action, and remanded the case to Superior Court to determine the issue of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the class claims. The Defendants then appealed to the California Supreme Court.

In July 2016, by a 4-3 majority, the California Supreme Court found for the Plaintiffs, who were also represented by Public Justice. Writing for the majority, Justice Werdegar wrote: “[Lebo Automotive] could have prepared an arbitration provision that explicitly addressed any unstated desire to have the availability of class arbitration resolved by a court, notwithstanding the otherwise broad and all-encompassing language of the clause identifying matters for the arbitrator. It did not.”

Following the decision, in November 2016, the parties reached a settlement of Sandquist’s claims.