The decision in Hernandez v. Brinker Int’l Payroll Co., L.P., No. 20-17667 (MAS) (TJB), 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188328 (D.N.J. Sep. 30, 2021), is worthy of note not only because of its specific holding: that discrimination, civil rights, and LAD claims could be arbitrated despite the plaintiffs’ having signed the arbitration agreements when they were minors. The opinion addressed a matter of first impression in New Jersey, of interest to the legal community, but was designated “not for publication” by the author. Because some state courts wrongly consider federal court opinions subject to the limitations of N.J. Court Rule 1:36-3, the decision may be relied upon in federal court but not in state court. This anomaly could be corrected in a number of ways: publishing the Hernandez opinion, amending Rule 1:36-3 to clarify that it applies only to state court opinions, or amending the rule to provide for greater ability of courts and litigants to cite and rely on unpublished opinions—the subject of earlier editorials.

The two plaintiffs in Hernandez both signed arbitration agreements when they were 16 and 17, respectively, as a condition of their employment at a franchise restaurant. Defendants presented evidence that the minors would not have been hired had they not signed. The agreements contained the jury/court waiver required by Atalese. Plaintiffs allegedly experienced sexual harassment on the job, quit, and sued.