Robinson v. Universal Protection Service LP et al

Filing 17

ORDER granting 12 Defendants' motion to compel arbitration. The Clerk shall enter judgment accordingly and terminate this case. Signed by Judge David G Campbell on 8/9/16.(LSP)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Matthew Robinson, Plaintiff, 10 11 Universal Protection Service, L.P., et al. 13 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-16-01408-PHX-DGC Defendants. 14 15 16 Plaintiff Matthew Robinson alleges that Defendant Universal Protection Service 17 (“UPS”) terminated him following a leave of absence authorized by the Family and 18 Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Doc. 1, ¶¶ 10-34. He asserts claims under the FMLA 19 and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. ¶¶ 35-45. 20 Defendants produce an arbitration agreement signed by Plaintiff, in which he 21 agreed to submit all disputes with UPS to arbitration. Doc. 12-1. Defendants move for 22 an order compelling arbitration and dismissing this matter in its entirety. Doc. 12. The 23 motion has been fully briefed (Docs. 13, 15) and no party requests oral argument. The 24 Court will grant the motion. 25 The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides that an agreement to arbitrate 26 “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in 27 equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. “[S]tatutory claims may be the 28 subject of an arbitration agreement, enforceable pursuant to the FAA,” unless “Congress 1 itself has evinced an intention to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory 2 rights at issue.” 3 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). 4 waiver of judicial remedies may be “discoverable in the text of the [statute], its legislative 5 history, or an inherent conflict between arbitration and the [statute’s] underlying 6 purposes.” Id. The party opposing arbitration bears the burden of showing that Congress 7 intended to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies. Id. 8 9 Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 26 (1991) Congressional intent to preclude a Plaintiff argues that Congress did not intend to allow employees to waive judicial remedies with respect to their rights under the FMLA. He points to 29 U.S.C. 10 § 2617(a)(2), which provides that “[a]n action to recover the damages or equitable relief 11 prescribed [by the FMLA] may be maintained against any employer . . . in any Federal or 12 State court of competent jurisdiction,” and to 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(d), which provides that 13 “[e]mployees cannot waive . . . their prospective rights under FMLA.” Additionally, 14 Plaintiff argues that the Seventh Amendment protects his right to a jury trial on FMLA 15 claims. Doc. 13 at 3. Defendants counter by pointing to decisions of the Fourth and 16 Eighth Circuits holding that FMLA claims can be subject to mandatory arbitration. 17 Doc. 15 at 2. In O’Neil v. Hilton Head Hospital, 115 F.3d 272 (4th Cir. 1997), the Fourth 18 Circuit concluded that “[n]othing in the [FMLA] suggests that Congress wished to 19 exempt disputes arising under it from the coverage of the FAA.” Id. at 274 (citing 20 Satarino v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., 941 F. Supp. 609, 613 (N.D. Tex. 1996)). And in 21 Thompson v. Air Transportation International LLC, 664 F.3d 723 (8th Cir. 2011), the 22 Eighth Circuit held that “[e]mployment-related civil rights claims,” including claims 23 under the FMLA, “can be subject to a mandatory arbitration provision.” Id. at 727. 24 The Court agrees with the Fourth and Eighth Circuits. Section 2617(a)(2) does not 25 confer an unqualified right to a judicial forum, as would be necessary to displace the 26 FAA; it provides only that an action to enforce the FMLA “may be maintained . . . in any 27 Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction.” 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(2). This language 28 is very similar to the language of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), -2- 1 which the Supreme Court in Gilmer found consistent with arbitration. See Gilmer, 500 2 U.S. at 29 (“arbitration is consistent with Congress’ grant of concurrent jurisdiction over 3 ADEA claims to state and federal courts, see 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)(1) (allowing suits to be 4 brought “in any court of competent jurisdiction”), because arbitration agreements, like 5 the provision for concurrent jurisdiction, serve to advance the objective of allowing 6 claimants a broader right to select the forum for resolving disputes.”) (citation and 7 quotation marks omitted; alteration incorporated). 8 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(d), which prevents an employee from waiving prospective 9 rights under the FMLA, does not change this analysis.1 As explained, the FMLA does 10 not create a right to a judicial forum: it simply creates a cause of action and provides that 11 Federal and State courts have subject matter jurisdiction over cases asserting these 12 claims. Because the FMLA does not confer a right to a judicial forum, the anti-waiver 13 provision does not invalidate an agreement to submit an FMLA claim to arbitration. See 14 Jann v. Interplastic Corp., 631 F. Supp. 2d 1161, 1165 (D. Minn. 2009) (“Gilmer, 15 therefore, compels the conclusion that individuals may be required to arbitrate FMLA 16 claims, notwithstanding the text of Section 825.220(d).”).2 17 Nor does the Seventh Amendment create an unqualified right to a judicial forum 18 in this case. “The Seventh Amendment right to a jury, although a fundamental right, can 19 be waived if done so knowingly and intentionally.” Russell-Stanley Holdings, Inc. v. 20 Buonanno, 327 F. Supp. 2d 252, 257 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). Moreover, “by agreeing to 21 arbitration . . . [a party] effectively waive[s] her right to a jury trial.” Great W. Mortgage 22 Corp. v. Peacock, 110 F.3d 222, 231 (3d Cir. 1997). Plaintiff waived his right to a jury 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Although the parties do not address the question, the Court will assume for purposes of this discussion that a valid federal regulation can preclude application of the FAA. Cf. Nat’l Ass’n of Home Builders v. Defs. of Wildlife, 551 U.S. 644, 666 (2007) (deferring to regulation providing that the Endangered Species Act did not apply to certain agency actions under the Clean Water Act). 2 Even if the FMLA were understood to create a right to a judicial forum, this would be a procedural right, not a substantive right. The Fifth Circuit has held that § 825.220(d) “applies only to waiver of substantive rights under the statute.” Faris v. Williams WPC-I, Inc., 332 F.3d 316, 320 (5th Cir. 2003). -3- 1 trial by agreeing to submit all disputes with UPS to arbitration.3 2 IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration (Doc. 12) is 3 granted. The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment accordingly and terminate this 4 case. 5 Dated this 9th day of August, 2016. 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(d) does not prevent waiver of the Seventh Amendment right because it applies only to “rights under FMLA.” -4-

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