Arceneaux v. TV Profile, LLC
ORDER granting 5 Motion to Dismiss Case or Compel Arbitration or Stay. Matter is STAYED pending mediation or arbitration. Signed by Judge Jay C. Zainey. (jrc, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JOSEPH D. ARCENEAUX
TV PROFILE, LLC D/B/A AMERICAN
SECTION: "A" (3)
ORDER AND REASONS
The following motions are before the Court: Motion to Dismiss and Compel
Arbitration, or in the Alternative, To Stay Proceedings (Rec. Doc. 5) filed by
defendant TV Profile, LLC d/b/a American Cash Advance. Plaintiff Joseph D. Arceneaux
opposes the motion. The motion, scheduled for submission on July 31, 2013,1 is before the
Court on the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the motion is
Plaintiff Joseph D. Arceneaux filed this lawsuit against his former employer,
defendant TV Profile, LLC d/b/a American Cash Advance, alleging unlawful discrimination
and wrongful termination. Defendant hired Arceneaux (age 49) on May 11, 2006, to be
manager of its store located in Opelousas, Louisiana. (Comp. ¶ 3). Arceneaux complains that
sometime in 2007 or 2008 he was passed over for the position of district manager, which
was given to a white female. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6). In subsequent years new district managers were
repeatedly hired from outside the company. (Id. ¶ 7). Finally, in August 2011, Arceneaux
applied for the position of district support manager. He interviewed for the position but the
The motion was originally carried on the magistrate judge’s motion calendar until the
parties objected to the referral. (Rec. Doc. 12).
job was awarded to a white female with only one year of experience. (Comp. ¶¶ 9-10).
Arceneaux concluded that the company would only choose younger, white individuals to fill
upper management positions so he filed an EEOC complaint in October 2011. (Id. ¶ 10).
Arceneaux contends that around March 2012, Defendant began to micromanage the
Opelousas store in order to harass him thereby making his working conditions intolerable.
(Comp. ¶ 14). On December 5, 2012, Defendant terminated Arceneaux’s employment, and
his position was filled by a younger, black female. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22). Arceneaux alleges that the
average age of Defendant’s upper management team is under the age of forty, and until April
2012 was all white and female. (Id. ¶ 23).
Arceneaux filed this action against Defendant on April 11, 2013. Arceneaux contends
that he was denied promotional opportunities based on his race, gender, and age. He also
alleges that Defendant harassed and retaliated against him because he reported Defendant’s
Defendant now moves to dismiss this action or alternatively to stay it arguing that all
of Arceneaux’s claims are subject to a binding arbitration agreement.
The first step in evaluating a motion to compel arbitration is to determine whether
the parties agreed to arbitrate. Fleetwood Enters., Inc. v. Gaskamp, 280 F.3d 1069, 1073
(5th Cir. 2002). This determination depends on two considerations: (1) whether there is a
valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties, and (2) whether the dispute in question
falls within the scope of the arbitration agreement. Id. (citing Webb v. Investacorp, 89 F.3d
252, 258 (5th Cir. 1996)). Ambiguities or uncertainties as to whether a particular dispute
falls within the scope of an arbitration agreement are resolved in favor of arbitration. Id.
(citing Volt Info Sciences, Inc. v. Board of Trustees, 489 U.S. 468 (1989)). Ordinary contract
principles apply to the determination of whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists
between the parties. Will-Drill Res., Inc. v. Samson Res. Co., 352 F.3d 211, 214 (5th Cir.
2003) (citing Fleetwood, 280 F.3d at 1073). Thus, the strong federal policy favoring
arbitration is triggered only after the Court determines that a binding arbitration agreement
exists. See id. “Arbitration is strictly a matter of consent.” Klein v. Nabors Drilling USA, LP,
710 F.3d 234, 237 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Granite Rock Co. v. Int’l Brotherhood of
Teamsters, 130 S. Ct. 2847, 2857 (2010)).
Under Louisiana law interpretation of a contract is the determination of the common
intent of the parties. La. Civ. Code art. 2045. The words of a contract must be given their
generally prevailing meaning. La. Civ. Code art. 2047. When the words of a contract are clear
and explicit and lead to no absurd consequences, no further interpretation may be made in
search of the parties’ intent. La. Civ. Code art. 2046.
In February 2007 Arceneaux and Defendant executed a mediation and arbitration
agreement. (Rec. Doc. 5-3, Def. Exh. 1). In that document Arceneaux agreed to resolve by
binding arbitration “all claims or controversies for which a federal or state court would be
authorized to grant relief, either arising out of, or relating to, or associated with [his]
employment with [Defendant].” (Id.). The agreement expressly includes claims for
discrimination. (Id.). All of the claims asserted in this federal action clearly fall within the
scope of this broad agreement—a conclusion that Arceneaux does not dispute.
Arceneaux is resisting arbitration by arguing that the agreement does not constitute a
valid contractual agreement to arbitrate his employment-related claims. Arceneaux argues
that his consent to the agreement was vitiated when his employment was terminated
because the agreement clearly states that he was executing the agreement in consideration of
the company employing him as an at-will employee. (Rec. Doc. 5-3, Exh. 1 ¶ 18). In other
words, Arceneaux believes that the agreement terminated when Defendant continued to
employ him. To the contrary, the plain text of the agreement does not support Arceneaux’s
contention, and a termination that occurred five years after he executed the agreement can
hardly constitute error so as to vitiate Arceneaux’s consent at the time of contract formation.
Arceneaux also argues that Defendant waived arbitration. Waiver occurs when the
party seeking arbitration substantially invokes the judicial process to the detriment or
prejudice of the other party. Republic Ins. Co. v. PAICO Receivables, LLC, 383 F.3d 341, 344
(5th Cir. 2004) (citing Subway Equip. Leasing Corp. v. Forte, 169 F.3d 324, 326 (5th Cir.
1999)). To invoke the judicial process the party must engage in some overt act that evinces a
desire to resolve the claims through litigation rather than arbitration. Id. (quoting Subway
Equip., 169 F.3d at 329). There is a strong presumption against finding a waiver and the
party urging waiver bears a heavy burden. Id. at 344(citing Subway Equip., 169 F.3d at
In this case there is no indication that Defendant invoked the judicial process,
substantially or otherwise. Shortly after being served with Arceneaux’s complaint, counsel
for Defendant informed Arceneaux’s counsel in writing of Defendant’s intention to invoke
binding arbitration. (Rec. Doc. 16-1, Exh. A). Being forced to respond to the complaint,
Defendant then filed the instant motion to compel arbitration. The objective facts belie any
suggestion of waiver.
In sum, none of the arguments urged by Arceneaux to escape the mediation and
arbitration agreement have merit.
Accordingly, and for the foregoing reasons;
IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration, or in
the Alternative, To Stay Proceedings (Rec. Doc. 5) filed by defendant TV Profile, LLC
d/b/a American Cash Advance is GRANTED. This matter is STAYED during the pendency
of the parties’ private mediation and arbitration proceedings. The Clerk of Court shall
CLOSE this matter for statistical reporting purposes.
November 12, 2013
JAY C. ZAINEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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