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Yahoo! Inc v. Bryan Iversen

October 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lucy H. Koh United States District Judge


United States District Court For the Northern District of California

Petitioner Yahoo! Inc. ("Yahoo") petitions the Court pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") seeking to compel individual rather than class arbitration of Respondent 18 Bryan Iversen's ("Iversen") employment-related claims. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the 19 Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument and hereby VACATES the 20 hearing and case management conference scheduled for October 13, 2011. Having considered the 21 submissions of the parties, and for good cause shown, the Court hereby DENIES the petition.


This action arises from an employment dispute. Upon commencing employment with Yahoo, Iversen signed an arbitration agreement on September 17, 2007, in which he agreed as 25 follows:

I acknowledge and confirm the mutual agreement that Yahoo! Inc. ("Yahoo!") and I will resolve any employment-related disputes or controversies against Yahoo!, its affiliates, or any officer, director, employee, or agent of Yahoo! or its affiliates, including but not limited to claims related to harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, defamation, and compensation (including equity compensation), by binding arbitration under the then current American Arbitration Association ("AAA") National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes ("Rules") and as provided by the Federal Arbitration Act.

Frick Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 5; Ex. to Frick Decl. at 2. 4 5 behalf of a class under the Private Attorneys General Act, Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq., alleging: (1) unpaid overtime; (2) failure to provide itemized wage statements; (3) failure to provide 7 compensation upon termination; (4) unfair business practices under California Business &

On June 23, 2011, Iversen filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA asserting claims on Professions Code § 17200 et seq.; (5) break violations; (6) failure to keep records; (7) illegal 9 deductions; and (8) minimum wage violations. See Ensign Decl. Ex. B, ECF No. 4-2. Yahoo 10 asserts that the arbitration agreement does not permit arbitration of class claims and therefore brings this petition seeking to compel Iversen to arbitrate his claims individually. Iversen contends that the arbitration agreement allows class arbitration and furthermore requires that any questions 13 of arbitrability be determined by the arbitrator, not the Court.

The FAA applies to any contract affecting interstate commerce, including employment 16 agreements. See Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 119 (2001). Enacted for the 17 purpose of making valid and enforceable written agreements to arbitrate disputes, the FAA 18 embodies "the basic precept that arbitration 'is a matter of consent, not coercion.'" Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int'l Corp., 130 S. Ct. 1758, 1773 (2010) (quoting Volt Info. Sciences, Inc. v. Bd. of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 479 (1989)). In accordance with 21 this principle, the Supreme Court has held that parties may agree to limit the issues subject to 22 arbitration, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 628 (1985); to 23 arbitrate according to specific rules, Volt, 489 U.S. at 479; and to limit with whom a party will 24 arbitrate its disputes, Stolt-Nielsen, 130 S. Ct. at 1773. Section 4 of the FAA ensures that "'private 25 agreements to arbitrate are enforced according to their terms,'" Stolt-Nielsen, 130 S. Ct. at 1773 (quoting Volt, 489 U.S. at 479), by expressly authorizing a party to an arbitration agreement to petition a United States district court for an order directing that "arbitration proceed in the manner 2 provided for in such agreement," 9 U.S.C. § 4.

4 upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2.

Arbitration is a matter of contract, and the FAA places arbitration agreements "on an equal footing 6 with other contracts." Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 130 S. Ct. 2772, 2776 (2010). The 7 interpretation of an arbitration agreement is therefore generally a matter of state law, Arthur 8

Under the FAA, arbitration agreements "shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable save Andersen LLP v. Carlisle, 129 S. Ct. 1896, 1901-02 (2009), unless application of state-law rules 9 would "stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the FAA's objectives," AT&T Mobility LLC Iversen's claims, were he pursuing them solely on his own behalf, fall within the scope of the 14 agreement. Rather, the questions before the Court are the same ones that confronted the Supreme Court in Green Tree Financial Corporation v. Bazzle, 539 U.S. 444 (2003) (plurality): (1) whether 16 the arbitrability of class claims under the parties' contract should be determined by the court or the 17 arbitrator, and (2) what standard the appropriate decision maker should apply in determining 18 whether the contract allows class arbitration. See Stolt-Nielsen, 130 S. Ct. at 1771 (discussing Bazzle). The Court discusses each in turn.

v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740, ...

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