In the News

Scientology Workers Signed Contracts Under Duress, Their Lawyers Say

Tampa Bay Times

November 17, 2022

The church disputes that, and now a federal judge will decide if allegations of abuse will be heard by a panel of loyal Scientologists, not the courts.

Before Gawain and Laura Baxter could leave their posts as workers aboard the Church of Scientology’s religious ship in the Caribbean in 2012, the couple said they had no choice but to sign contracts they didn’t understand.

It was required before a security guard would hand over their passports, immigration records and identification, according to court records.

What they didn’t know, according to their declarations, is that they signed clauses agreeing to bring any future dispute before the church’s internal arbitration panel of loyal Scientologists, not the U.S. court system.

The Baxters and fellow Scientology worker Valeska Paris sued the church in April for trafficking, and now a Tampa federal judge is considering whether to grant the church’s request to punt the lawsuit into internal arbitration.

At a hearing on the motion Thursday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber asked both sides to explain whether the former Scientologists signed the contracts under duress. All three were members of the church’s military-style workforce called the Sea Org.

The article can be read on Tampa Bay Times.

Cohen Milstein is honored to represent the plaintiffs in this case.