Wilson v. 59th St LD Oklahoma City LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER, granting 16 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Stay in Favor of Arbitration filed by 59th St LD Oklahoma City LLC; Administrative Closing. Signed by Honorable Robin J. Cauthron on 2/23/17. (lg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
ANGEL WILSON, on behalf of herself,
and all others similarly situated,
59th St. LD OKLAHOMA CITY, LLC
d/b/a LITTLE DARLINGS),
Case No. CIV-16-1124-C
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON ARBITRATION
In her Complaint Plaintiff asserts that she was employed by Defendant as an exotic
dancer. According to Plaintiff, during her employment with Defendant, she was not paid
as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. (“FLSA”). Plaintiff
brought this action seeking class action certification to recover unpaid wages. Defendant
has filed a Motion to Dismiss or Stay in Favor of Arbitration. In its Motion, Defendant
argues that Plaintiff worked as an independent professional entertainer. Defendant asserts
that prior to beginning her relationship with Defendant, Plaintiff signed a contract which
contained an arbitration clause. Thus, Defendant argues, the Court should stay this case
and direct the parties to complete the arbitration process.
The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq. (“FAA”), allows “[a] party
aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to arbitrate under a written
agreement for arbitration [to] petition any United States district court . . . for an order
directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” 9
U.S.C. § 4. The FAA requires the Court to “compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of
the parties’ agreement if (1) a valid, enforceable arbitration agreement exists, and (2) the
asserted claims are within the scope of that agreement.” Edwards v. Blockbuster Inc., 400
F. Supp. 2d 1305, 1309 (E.D. Okla. 2005); see also 9 U.S.C. § 4 (“The court shall hear the
parties, and upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for arbitration or the
failure to comply therewith is not in issue, the court shall make an order directing the parties
to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”). If these two
elements are satisfied, the Court has no discretion and must direct the parties to proceed to
arbitration. See KPMG LLP v. Cocchi, 565 U.S. 18, 22 (2011) (citing Dean Witter
Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985)). The FAA “creates a ‘presumption in
favor of arbitrability and courts must resolve all doubts’ in favor of arbitration.” Edwards,
400 F. Supp. 2d at 1309 (citing Shankle v. B-G Maint. Mgmt. of Colo., 163 F.3d 1230,
1233 (10th Cir. 1999)); see also KPMG LLP, 565 U.S. at 21 (quoting Mitsubishi Motors
Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 631 (1985)) (“The Federal
Arbitration Act reflects an ‘emphatic federal policy in favor of arbitral dispute
resolution.’”). “The party seeking to avoid arbitration bears the burden of proving that the
claims are not covered, and only the most forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude a claim
from arbitration can prevail.” Edwards, 400 F. Supp. 2d at 1310.
Plaintiff argues 1) that arbitration is improper, as there is no proof of an agreement
to arbitrate; 2) the arbitration clause unfairly favors Defendant because of the costs Plaintiff
would have to pay to arbitrate; and/or 3) the arbitration clause should not be enforced
because it denies Plaintiff certain statutory rights.
Plaintiff’s first argument addresses the Court’s first duty in deciding whether to
compel arbitration – is there a valid agreement to arbitrate. In support, Defendant has
submitted a document purportedly signed by Plaintiff which contains the operative
arbitration clause. Plaintiff does not dispute that the document contains her signature.
Rather, Plaintiff argues that there is no proof that the document reflects an agreement with
the club where she worked. Plaintiff asserts that the document nowhere contains the name
“Little Darlings,” which is the name of the club where she danced. Thus, Plaintiff argues,
there is no proof of an agreement between her and that entity.
Plaintiff’s argument borders on the frivolous.
The document provided by
Defendant evinces an agreement between Plaintiff and Defendant 59th St. LD Oklahoma
City, LLC (59th St”). In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that 59th St. was her employer
and that it does business as Little Darlings. (See Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff will not
now be heard to argue otherwise.
Plaintiff also argues that the arbitration clause is unenforceable because it was
obtained in an unconscionable manner. However, when her arguments are examined
closely, it is clear her unconscionability arguments attack the entire contract. Thus, those
arguments are to be resolved by the arbitrator. See Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v.
Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 445-46 (2006) (“unless the challenge is to the arbitration clause
itself, the issue of the contract’s validity is considered by the arbitrator in the first
instance.”). Accordingly, the Court finds there is an agreement to arbitrate.
Whether the claims brought by Plaintiff are within the scope of that agreement is an
issue for the arbitrator.
This is the case whether, as Plaintiff argues, the clause is
unconscionable or if it takes away certain statutory rights.
The arbitration clause states:
EXCEPT FOR ANY ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS THAT
ARE NOT LEGALLY BARRED BY THIS PARAGRAPH, ANY
CONTROVERSY, DISPUTE, OR CLAIM (IN THIS PARAGRAPH 21,
COLLECTIVELY “CLAIM”) ARISING OUT OF THIS LEASE OR
OUT OF ENTERTAINER PERFORMING AND/OR WORKING AT
THE CLUB AT ANY TIME, WHETHER CONTRACTUAL, IN TORT,
OR BASED UPON COMMON LAW OR STATUTE, SHALL BE
EXCLUSIVELY DECIDED BY BINDING ARBITRATION HELD
PURSUANT TO THE FEDERAL ARBITRATION ACT (THE “FAA”).
SUCH ARBITRATION SHALL OCCUR IN THE STATE OF
OKLAHOMA, AND SHALL BE ADMINISTERED BY A NEUTRAL
ARBITRATOR AGREED UPON BY THE PARTIES, WHO SHALL
BE PERMITTED TO AWARD, SUBJECT ONLY TO THE
RESTRICTIONS CONTAINED IN THIS PARAGRAPH 21, ANY
RELIEF AVAILABLE IN A COURT. . . . THE ARBITRATOR
SHALL HAVE EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY TO RESOLVE ANY
DISPUTES OVER THE VALIDITY AND/OR ENFORCEABILITY
OF ANY PART OF THIS LEASE, INCLUDING THESE
(Dkt. No. 16-2, ¶21).
See AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Commc’ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986) (stating
that parties may agree to arbitrate arbitrability). The Supreme Court has held that when
parties agree that an arbitrator should decide arbitrability, they delegate to an arbitrator all
threshold questions concerning arbitrability – including “whether their agreement covers a
particular controversy.” Rent-A-Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 68-69 (2010).
Now that the Court has found that Plaintiff’s claims must be submitted to arbitration,
the question is dismissal or stay. The FAA states that the Court “upon being satisfied that
the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an
agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such
arbitration has been had.” 9 U.S.C. § 3 (emphasis added).
Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss or Stay in Favor of Arbitration (Dkt.
No. 16) is GRANTED. The Court orders the parties to arbitrate Plaintiff’s claims in
accordance with the terms set out in the Dancer Performance Lease. This matter shall be
administratively closed pending the arbitration and any party may move to reopen it upon
conclusion of those proceedings.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of February, 2017.
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