HAYES v. REINHART FOOD SERVICE, LLC
MEMORANDUM AN OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL ON 2/28/17. 3/1/17 ENTERED AND COPIES TO ARBITRATION, E-MAILED.(er, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
REINHART FOOD SERVICE, LLC,
February 28, 2017
Before the Court is the motion of defendant, Reinhart Food Service, LLC
(“Reinhart” or “Defendant”) to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint, or in the alternative, to
compel arbitration and stay proceedings. Plaintiff, Tereek Hayes (“Hayes” or “Plaintiff”)
has opposed the motion and Defendant has filed a reply. Having read the parties’ briefs
and reviewing all exhibits, and after oral argument on the motion, I will grant
Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint and order this matter to proceed to
Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, filed this employment discrimination
claim against Defendant, seeking to recover for his alleged wrongful termination.
Specifically, Hayes alleges that his employment with Reinhart was terminated because of
his race in violation of Title VII. In connection with his employment with Reinhart,
Hayes signed an arbitration agreement (the “Agreement”) which Defendant claims
requires him to arbitrate all claims against Reinhart arising out of his employment in an
arbitral forum, including race discrimination claims under Title VII.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Plaintiff commenced work with Reinhart in December of 2013 as a truck driver
and was fired on January 29, 2014. (Compl. at ¶¶ 5, 18.) As a condition of his
employment, Hayes entered into a written arbitration agreement with Reinhart. (Docket
No. 3, Ex. 1-A.) The Agreement contains an arbitration clause that states as follows:
Any legal claims or controversies (“Claims”) an employee may have
against the Company or the Company may have against an employee must
be resolved by arbitration instead of the courts, whether or not such claims
arise out of an employee’s employment or its termination . . . Arbitration
is the exclusive forum for the resolution of such disputes, and the parties
mutually waive their right to a trial before a judge or jury in federal or
state court in favor of Arbitration under the Program . . . A dispute is
based on a legal claim and is subject to the Program if it arises from or
involves a claim under federal, state or local statute . . including . . . claims
for harassment or discrimination (including, but not limited to, race . . .)
This arbitration program includes, but is not limited to, claims under . . .
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
(See id.) The Agreement further states “By being hired or remaining employed with the
Company, employees are agreeing to waive their rights to have a claim against the
Company heard in a court of law.” (Id.)
Hayes filed the instant Complaint on May 10, 2016, alleging discrimination and
retaliation based on his race. (Compl. at ¶¶ 5, 20-56.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Third Circuit recently “clarif[ied] the standards to be applied to motions to
compel arbitration, identifying the circumstances under which district courts should apply
the standard for a motion to dismiss, as provided by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, and those under which they should apply the summary judgment
standard found in Rule 56.” Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d
764, 767 (3d Cir. 2013). As stated by the Third Circuit, “when it is apparent, based on
‘the face of a complaint, and documents relied upon in the complaint,’ that certain of a
party's claims ‘are subject to an enforceable arbitration clause, a motion to compel
arbitration should be considered under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard without discovery's
delay.’ ” Id. at 776 (quoting Somerset Consulting, LLC v. United Capital Lenders, LLC,
832 F.Supp.2d 474, 482 (E.D.Pa. 2011)). “But if the complaint and its supporting
documents are unclear regarding the agreement to arbitrate, or if the plaintiff has
responded to a motion to compel arbitration with additional facts sufficient to place the
agreement to arbitrate in issue, then ‘the parties should be entitled to discovery on the
question of arbitrability before a court entertains further briefing on [the] question.’ After
limited discovery, the court may entertain a renewed motion to compel arbitration, this
time judging the motion under a summary judgment standard.” Id. (quoting Somerset
Consulting, 832 F.Supp.2d at 482).
Defendant argues that the arbitration agreement in this matter is valid and
enforceable and therefore, should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiff argues
that the FAA does not apply to Title VII cases, and that the arbitration agreement that
Plaintiff signed was an unenforceable contract of adhesion.
A. The Federal Arbitration Act Applies to Title VII Cases
The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), which applies to any dispute in state or
federal court concerning contracts affecting interstate commerce, strongly favors
resolving disputes through arbitration. Hopkins v. New Day Fin., 643 F.Supp.2d 704, 713
(E.D. Pa. 2009). The FAA states that “A written provision in. . . a contract evidencing a
transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration . . . 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. It is undisputed that there is a “liberal federal policy favoring
arbitration agreements.” Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24-26
(1991). The FAA “establishes a strong policy in favor of compelling arbitration over
litigation,” Sandvik AB v. Advent Int’l Corp., 220 F.3d 99, 104 (3d Cir. 2000), and
arbitration agreements falling within the scope of the FAA “must be rigorously
enforce[d].” Perry v. Thomas, 482 U.S. 483, 490 (1987). Further, the Supreme Court has
held that employment agreements are subject to the FAA. Circuit City Stores, Inc. v.
Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 122-23 (2001).
Plaintiff’s opposition to the arbitrability of this matter seems to focus on public
policy issues. Hayes attempts to make a distinction between age discrimination claims
and the instant race discrimination claim, arguing that Title VII race discrimination
claims should not be forced to arbitration because race is somehow subject to a different
analysis than age discrimination. However, Plaintiff has failed to cite to a single case that
holds that arbitration agreements cannot be enforced with regard to Title VII race
discrimination claims. Plaintiff cites to Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S.
20 (1991), where the Supreme Court upheld the arbitrability of an ADEA claim.
Specifically, the Supreme Court stated “[i]t is by now clear that statutory claims may be
the subject of an arbitration agreement, enforceable pursuant to the FAA.” Gilmer, 500
U.S. at 26. No court has held that statutory Title VII claims may not be subject to an
arbitration agreement. In fact, the Third Circuit has stated that “[b]ecause Title VII and
the ADEA ‘are similar in their aims and substantive provisions,” . . . we find Title VII
entirely compatible with applying the FAA to agreements to arbitrate Title VII claims.”
Seus v. John Nuveen & Co., 146 F.3d 175, 182 (3d Cir. 1998) (internal citation omitted).
As the Agreement between Hayes and Reinhart clearly includes Title VII claims
(see Docket No. 3, Ex. 1-A), and this type of arbitration agreements has been enforced
with regard to all types of employment-related statutory claims, including Title VII
claims, Plaintiff’s race discrimination claim under Title VII is an arbitrable claim under
B. The Arbitration Agreement is Not a Contract of Adhesion
Plaintiff also argues that the Agreement is a contract of adhesion and is therefore,
unenforceable. I find this argument must fail. “The cardinal principle of the law of
arbitration is that under the FAA, arbitration is a matter of consent, not coercion, and
parties are generally free to structure their arbitration agreements as they see fit.” Gay v.
CreditInform, 511 F.3d 369, 388-89 (3d Cir. 2007). Plaintiff was not forced to enter into
the Agreement. He had his choice to either accept employment with Reinhart and agree
to arbitrate any disputes, or find employment with someone else who did not require an
agreement to arbitrate. As consideration for the Agreement in question, Reinhart agreed
to hire and employ Hayes, which it did. Further, if Plaintiff is alleging that unequal
bargaining power existed between he and Reinhart, that fact alone does not create a
contract of adhesion. Gokhberg v. Sovereign Bancorp, Inc., 2011 WL 3862155, at *2
(E.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2011).
Lastly, Plaintiff appears to be arguing that the Agreement was ambiguous,
referencing the need for “clear and unambiguous language” in the Agreement. However,
I find that the language of the Agreement was clear and precise, discussed the
requirements and procedure for arbitrating disputes and specifically included the
arbitrability of Title VII race discrimination claims, the very claim brought by Plaintiff.
I find that a binding agreement to arbitrate exists between Hayes and Reinhart,
and that the dispute in question (Title VII race discrimination) is within the scope of that
agreement. Accordingly, the Agreement must be enforced and this matter must be
arbitrated. When all of a party's claims are within the scope of the arbitration provision,
an order of dismissal is appropriate. Seus, 146 F.3d at 179. Plaintiff’s race discrimination
claims are clearly within the scope of the Agreement. Accordingly, I decline to stay this
action, and will dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, to
Compel Arbitration is granted, this matter is dismissed and shall proceed to arbitration as
contained in the arbitration agreement.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?