Hanson v. Prime Communications LP
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING 8 MOTION to Compel Arbitration and MOTION to Stay. This action is hereby STAYED and ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSED pending completion of arbitration. Upon good cause shown by either side, the Court will grant a motion to reinstate this lawsuit as an active case. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 3/17/2017. (JLC)
2017 Mar-17 AM 10:50
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
PRIME COMMUNICATIONS LP,
) Case No.: 1:17-CV-161-VEH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) lawsuit was initiated by Plaintiff
Margaret Hanson (“Ms. Hanson”) on January 31, 2017. (Doc. 1). Pending before the
Court is Defendant Prime Communications LP (“Prime”)’s Motion To Compel
Arbitration and To Stay the Action (Doc. 8) (the “Motion”) filed on February 27,
2017. Defendant moves this Court to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s claims and
“stay the case pending such arbitration as this will permit the Court to later enter a
judgment to enforce the arbitration award if necessary.” (Doc. 8 at 2, ¶ 3).
The Motion indicates within the case caption that it is unopposed and later
clarifies that “Counsel for Prime has conferred with Plaintiff’s counsel who does not
oppose this motion.” Id. at 2, ¶5. Moreover, the 14-day deadline for Ms. Hanson to
file any opposition under Appendix III of the Court’s Uniform Initial Order (Doc. 4)
ran on March 13, 2017, and nothing was filed. Id. at 23. For the reasons explained
below, the Motion is due to be GRANTED.
Ms. Hanson’s Lack of Opposition
Ms. Hanson’s lack of opposition to the Motion does not automatically mean
that the Motion is due to be granted. As explained by Judge Steele in Branch Banking
and Trust Co. v. Howard, No. 12–0175–WS–N, 2013 WL 172903, at *1 (S.D. Ala.
Jan. 16, 2013), in the comparable situation of a non-movant’s failure to oppose a
motion to dismiss:
As noted, Churchill and Howard elected not to be heard in
response to BB & T’s Amended Motion to Dismiss. Notwithstanding
that omission, BB & T (as Rule 12(b)(6) movant) bears the initial
burden of demonstrating that it is entitled to dismissal of the
counterclaims. Churchill’s and Howard’s lack of response to the Rule
12(b)(6) Motion does not trigger the kneejerk granting of such Motion
on an abandonment theory. See Gailes v. Marengo County Sheriff’s
Dep’t, 2013 WL 81227, *5 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 4, 2013) (“the Court will not
treat a claim as abandoned merely because the plaintiff has not defended
it in opposition to a motion to dismiss”). Rather, it remains BB & T’s
burden as movant to establish its entitlement to relief under Rule
12(b)(6). In light of these circumstances, the Court scrutinizes BB & T’s
Motion to Dismiss in accordance with the following legal standard: “the
Court will review the merits of the [movant]’s position and, if it is
clearly incorrect or inadequate to satisfy the [movant]’s initial burden,
will deny the motion despite the [nonmovant]’s failure to respond. If,
however, the [movant]’s presentation is adequate to satisfy its initial
burden, the Court will not deny the motion based on arguments the
[nonmovant] could have made but by silence elected not to raise.” Id.
Branch Banking, 2013 WL 172903, at *1 (footnotes omitted).
Prime bases its Motion on the grounds that Ms. Hansen signed a Mutual
Agreement To Arbitrate Claims (hereinafter, the “Arbitration Agreement”) stating
that all disputes she has with Prime, “specifically including any disputes arising out
of or relating to her employment, including claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), are subject to mandatory and binding arbitration.” (Doc. 8 at 1, ¶ 1).
Attached to the Motion is the Arbitration Agreement in question. (Doc. 8-1).1
The Agreement is expressly governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”)
(Doc. 8-1 at 5) and states in pertinent part:
The Company and You agree that this Agreement will govern the
resolution of all disputes, claims or any other matters arising out of or
relating to your employment relationship with the Company. This
Agreement includes any claims or disputes that You may have against
the Company or any of its officers, directors, employees, agents, or
parents, subsidiaries or affiliated companies, or any claims or disputes
the Company may have against You. The Parties shall resolve all
disputes arising out of the employment relationship in accordance with
Except for the claims expressly excluded by this Agreement, both
All page references to (Doc. __) correspond with the Court’s CM/ECF numbering
you and the Company agree to arbitrate any and all disputes, claims, or
controversies (“Covered claim”) that the Company may have against
you or that you may have against the Company which could be brought
in a court arising out of your relationship with the Company, including,
but not limited to, all claims arising out of your employment with the
Company and the end of your employment with the Company. This
Agreement includes, but is not limited to, claims under any state,
federal, administrative statute or other law related to the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, as amended; the Fair Labor Standards Act; the Family and
Medical Leave Act[.]
(Doc. 8-1 at 5 (emphasis added)).2 Because Ms. Hanson’s two counts brought against
Prime are for violations of the FLSA overtime and opt-in collective action provisions
(Doc. 1 at 3-8 ¶¶ 11-46), her claims fall within the scope of “Covered Claims” under
Whether the Agreement is enforceable is a mixed question of federal and state
law. See Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Bright Metal Specialties, Inc., 251 F.3d 1316,
1322 (11th Cir. 2001) (“Federal law establishes the enforceability of arbitration
agreements, while state law governs the interpretation and formation of such
agreements.” (citing Perry v. Thomas, 482 U.S. 483, 107 S. Ct. 2520, 96 L. Ed. 2d
“Claims not specifically covered by this Agreement are: (i) claims for workers’
compensation benefits; (ii) claims for unemployment compensation benefits; (iii) claims based
upon any current (successor or future) stock option plans, employee pension and/or welfare
benefit plans if those plans contain some form of a grievance, arbitration, or other procedure for
the resolution of disputes under the plan; and (iv) claims by law which are not subject to
mandatory binding pre-dispute arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, such as claims
under the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act.” (Doc. 8-1 at 6).
426 (1987))). Turning to considerations under the FAA first, the United States
Supreme Court has explained:
The Arbitration Act provides that written agreements to arbitrate
controversies arising out of an existing contract “shall be valid,
irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or
in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. By its terms,
the Act leaves no place for the exercise of discretion by a district court,
but instead mandates that district courts shall direct the parties to
proceed to arbitration on issues as to which an arbitration agreement has
been signed. §§ 3, 4. Thus, insofar as the language of the Act guides our
disposition of this case, we would conclude that agreements to arbitrate
must be enforced, absent a ground for revocation of the contractual
Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218, 105 S. Ct. 1238, 1241, 84 L.
Ed. 2d 158 (1985) (emphasis in original). Therefore, the FAA leaves very little room
to challenge the validity of an arbitration agreement. See, e.g., Walthour v. Chipio
Windshield Repair, LLC, 745 F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2014) (“The FAA thus
‘embodies a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements’ and seeks ‘to
relieve congestion in the courts and to provide parties with an alternative method for
dispute resolution that is speedier and less costly than litigation.’” (quoting Caley v.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., 428 F.3d 1359, 1367 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation marks omitted))).
Further, the Agreement is governed by the FAA pursuant to Alabama
substantive standards. More specifically, “(1) there is a written agreement calling for
arbitration, and (2) the contract in which the arbitration agreement appears relates to
a transaction involving interstate commerce.” (Doc. 15 at 6); see also Prudential Sec.,
Inc. v. Micro-Fab, Inc., 689 So. 2d 829, 832 (Ala. 1997) (same) (citing Maxus, Inc.
v. Sciacca, 598 So. 2d 1376 (Ala. 1992)).
As demonstrated above, the writing prong has undoubtedly been met.
Moreover, Ms. Hanson’s Complaint confirms that the interstate commerce component
is satisfied. See, e.g., (Doc. 1 at 3, ¶12) (“During the three years preceding the filing
of this Complaint, and currently, Defendant is an enterprise engaged in commerce or
the production of goods in commerce as defined by 29 U.S.C. ¶ 203(s)(1).”); Id. at
3, ¶ 17 (“Plaintiff and all similarly situated store managers employed by Defendant
were engaged in interstate commerce and/or the production of goods for interstate
commerce while working for Defendant. Plaintiff’s interstate commercial activity
included, but was not limited to selling products that originated out of state or outside
of the United States, and processing credit card and debit card transactions that
crossed state lines.”).
Finally, no ground for revocation of the Agreement arising under Alabama law
is readily apparent from the record.3 Therefore, Ms. Hanson’s claims are subject to
The Court notes that the Agreement also states: “The Parties agree all claims must be
pursued in arbitration or on an individual basis only. By signing this Agreement, You and the
Company waive Your right to commence, or be a party to, or a member of, any class, collective,
arbitration as mandated by the FAA.
Accordingly, Prime’s Motion’s is GRANTED. This action is hereby STAYED
and ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSED pending completion of arbitration. Upon
good cause shown by either side, the Court will grant a motion to reinstate this
lawsuit as an active case.
DONE and ORDERED this the 17th day of March, 2017.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
representative or group action or claims, or to bring jointly any claim with any other person or
entity except for the above pending cases.” (Doc. 8-1 at 6). In Walthour, the Eleventh Circuit
found that these types of waiver provisions, when applied to FLSA claims, were enforceable
under the FAA. See Walthour, 745 F.3d at 1334 (“After examining the FLSA’s text, legislative
history, purposes, and these Supreme Court decisions, we discern no ‘contrary congressional
command’ that precludes the enforcement of plaintiffs’ Arbitration Agreements and their
collective action waivers.”).
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