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Elizabeth Moore Laughlin v. Vmware

December 20, 2012

ELIZABETH MOORE LAUGHLIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VMWARE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward J. Davila United States District Judge

United States District Court For the Northern District of California

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD; DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO VACATE ARBITRATION AWARD [Re: Docket Nos. 45, 47]

Presently before the Court are two motions: Plaintiff Elizabeth Moore Laughlin's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Reopen and to Confirm an Arbitration Award and Defendant VMWare, 19 Inc.'s ("Defendant") Cross-Motion to Vacate the Award on Clause Construction. Pursuant to Local 20 Civil Rule 7--1(b), the Court had concluded that this matter is appropriate for determination without 21 oral argument. Having reviewed the relevant portions of the record, the Court will deny the relief 22 sought by Defendant, and will grant Plaintiff's motion. 23

I.Background

On February 3, 2011, Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, filed a class action suit on 26 behalf of herself and other similarly situated employees. See Compl., Docket Item No. 1. Plaintiff 27 28 has alleged that Defendant had failed to pay her and other class members overtime compensation 2 or benefits as required by federal and state law. See id. Plaintiff's employment was governed by an 3 Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Vacate, Ex. A. 5 6 following arbitration clause from the Employee Agreement: 7

arising out of or relating to any interpretation, construction, performance or breach of this Agreement, shall be settled by arbitration to be held in Santa Clara County,

California, in accordance with the rules then in effect of the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrator may grant injunctions or other relief in such dispute or controversy. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final, conclusive and binding on the parties to the arbitration. Judgment may be entered on the arbitrator's decision in any court having jurisdiction. The Company and I shall each pay one half of the costs and expenses of such arbitration, and each of us shall separately pay our counsel fees and expenses.

Employee Agreement, which was executed by the parties in 2004. Decl. of Michael A. Aparicio in 4

On October 4, 2011, Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration based on the Except as provided in Section 7(b) below, I agree that any dispute or controversy

2012. See Docket Item No. 43. In this Order, the Court found the provisions in the arbitration 16 clause regarding cost-splitting and attorney's fees to be unconscionable; however the Court found 17 that those provisions may be severed from the agreement. Id. at 10:18--23. Because the current 18 dispute relates to Plaintiff's employment, the Court concluded, the remaining provisions of the 19 arbitration clause were applicable. Id. at 12:4--6. The Court went on to order, "Any further 20 decisions regarding the scope of arbitration, including whether class arbitration may proceed, are 21 left to the arbitrator." Id. 22

("AAA"), and heard by arbitrator Louise A. LaMothe, Esq. ("the Arbitrator"). See Pl.'s Mot. to 24

Id. § VII.a. This Court issued an Order Granting the Motion to Compel Arbitration on February 1, 15

The arbitration proceedings were conducted through the American Arbitration Association

Confirm Arbitration Award at 1--2. The Arbitrator was selected through the AAA's usual 25 procedures, and the arbitration was held telephonically on June 20, 2012. Def.'s Mot. to Vacate at 26

8. During the arbitration, Defendant sought to strike the class references in Plaintiff's arbitration 27 28

demand so as to require Plaintiff to proceed on an individual basis only. See Aparicio Decl., Ex. L. 2

On August 27, 2012, in a Partial Final Award on Clause Construction ("the Award"), the Arbitrator 3 denied Defendant's motion to strike the class allegations. Id. Pursuant to the AAA's 4

30 days to permit "any party to move a court of competent jurisdiction to confirm or to vacate the 6

On September 7, 2012, Plaintiff moved this Court to reopen the case and confirm the

Award. See Docket Item No. 45. For its part, on September 21, 2012, Defendant cross-moved to 9 vacate the Award. See Docket Item No. 47.

13 arbitrator pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). In reviewing an award, a court must 14 afford great deference to the arbitrator's decision as well as the interpretation of the arbitrability of 15 the dispute. See Sheet Metal Workers' Int'l Ass'n v. Madison Indus., Inc., 84 F.3d 1186, 1190 (9th 16 Cir. 1996); see also Pack Concrete, Inc. v. Cunningham, 866 F.2d 283, 285 (9th Cir. 1989). Such 17 deference is given even in light of the speed and informality in which arbitration can take place. 18

See Collins v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 505 F.3d 874, 879 (9th Cir. 2007). Indeed, it is these twin 19 advantages that are lauded by federal policy and make arbitration favorable for the many private 20 parties in resolving their disputes. See Fairchild & Co., Inc. v. Richmond, Fredericksburg & 21

Potomac R.R. Co., 516 F. Supp. 1305, 1313 (D.D.C. 1981); see also Madison Indus., Inc., 84 F.3d 22 at 1190; Scherk v. Alberto--Culver Co., 417 U.S. 506 (1974) (acknowledging that the FAA 23

"reflects a legislative recognition of the 'desirability of arbitration as an alternative to the 24 complications of litigation.'") (quoting Wilko v. Swan, 346 U.S. 427, 431 (1953)). 25 26 consensual agreement of the parties to ...


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