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Farrow v. Fujitsu America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

April 9, 2014

ROBERT FARROW, Plaintiff,
v.
FUJITSU AMERICA, INC., Defendant

Decided Date: April 10, 2014.

Page 1116

For Robert Farrow, Plaintiff: Louis A Highman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bruce J. Highman, Highman, Highman & Ball, A Professional Law Association, San Francisco, CA.

For Fujitsu America, Inc., Defendant: Maiko Nakarai-Kanivas, Littler Mendelson, San Francisco, CA.

Page 1117

ORDER GRANTING FUJITSU'S MOTION TO DISMISS

LUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Farrow filed this suit against his former employer, Defendant Fujitsu America, Inc. (" Fujitsu" ), alleging federal and California state law claims related to age discrimination and workplace retaliation. See ECF No. 1 (Compl.). Fujitsu has moved in the alternative to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), or to compel arbitration and stay this litigation. See ECF No. 10. Farrow filed an Opposition, see ECF No. 17, and Fujitsu filed a Reply and objections to certain evidence, see ECF No. 19. The Court finds the Motion suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), and therefore VACATES the hearing and case management conference set for April 10, 2014. Having considered the briefing, the record in this case, and applicable law, the Court GRANTS the Motion for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

This dispute arises from Farrow's employment with Fujitsu. The following facts are undisputed. Farrow applied for a job with Fujitsu by submitting an application dated June 20, 2005. Decl. of Cora Quiroz (ECF No. 28, " Quiroz Decl. 1" ) ¶ 8, Ex. A. Farrow's application included a signed acknowledgment that a condition of his employment was his " agreement to submit claims related to termination of employment, discrimination, unlawful harassment, including sexual harassment, . . . to final and binding arbitration." Id. Ex. A. In a letter dated July 27, 2005, Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation (the predecessor to Defendant Fujitsu America, Inc.) extended Farrow an employment offer to become " Director, Federal Sales," which Farrow signed on July 28, 2005 and faxed back to Fujitsu. Quiroz Decl. 1 ¶ 9, Ex. B. Before Farrow started his job with Fujitsu, he received a package of materials from Fujitsu, including an " Arbitration Policy and Agreement." Id. ¶ 10, Ex. C (" Agreement" ). Farrow signed the Agreement on August 22, 2005, his first day with Fujitsu. Id. At the times he signed his application and the offer

Page 1118

letter, Farrow lived in Maryland. Id. Exs. A, B (listing Maryland addresses).

The Agreement states in part:

If there is any dispute with Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation (the " Company" ), in any way arising out of the termination of your employment, any demotion, or arising out of any claim of discrimination, unlawful harassment including sexual harassment, or claims of breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, or violations of the public policy, or as to all the preceding any related claims of defamation or infliction of emotional distress, you and the Company agree to waive their respective rights to a jury or judge trial and to instead submit all such disputes exclusively to final and binding arbitration pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act.

Agreement § 1. The Agreement also contains provisions for selecting an arbitrator, the scope of the arbitrator's authority, and procedures for discovery and hearings. Id. § § 2-13.

During his employment with Fujitsu, Farrow sold products to a variety of customers across the country. From approximately 2005 to 2007, Farrow handled sales to the federal government, but then sold to federal, state, and local governments from 2007 to 2011, and then also to private customers from 2011 to the end of his employment. Opp'n at 4. Farrow's customers were located nationwide, including Maryland and California. Id. While Farrow travelled to multiple locations during his employment--including to Fujitsu's headquarters in California--he worked at a Fujitsu office in Maryland until 2009, and then from his Maryland home until his termination. See Quiroz Decl. 1 ¶ 3; Reply at 3.

Fujitsu terminated Farrow on November 13, 2012. Compl. ¶ 7. In response, Farrow filed this lawsuit, alleging that Fujitsu fired him because of his age (he was 65 at the time) and because he reported and opposed sexual harassment and age discrimination against other employees. See id. ¶ ¶ 26-29. Farrow pleaded claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Id. at 11-16.

On December 9, 2013, Fujitsu filed the instant motion to dismiss Farrow's complaint or stay this case pending arbitration under the Agreement. ECF No. 10 (" Mot." ). Farrow filed an opposition on January 6, 2014 (ECF No. 17, " Opp'n" ), and Fujitsu filed a reply and objections to certain evidence provided by Farrow on January 17, 2014 (ECF No. 19).[1]

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. The Federal Arbitration Act

Fujitsu's motion to dismiss or compel arbitration turns on the existence of a valid arbitration agreement between the parties that covers Farrow's claims, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (" FAA" ). Under Section 3 of the FAA, " a party may apply to a federal court for a stay of the trial of an action 'upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration.'" Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 2776, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010) (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 3). If all claims in litigation are subject to a valid arbitration agreement, the court may dismiss or stay the case. See Hopkins & Carley, ALC v. Thomson Elite, No. 10-CV-05806,

Page 1119

(N.D. Cal. Apr. 6, 2011).

The FAA states that written arbitration agreements " 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. In deciding whether a dispute is arbitrable, a court must answer two questions: (1) whether the parties agreed to arbitrate, and, if so, (2) whether the scope of that agreement to arbitrate encompasses the claims at issue. See Chiron Corp. v. Ortho Diagnostic Sys., Inc., 207 F.3d 1126, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). If a party seeking arbitration establishes these two factors, the court must compel arbitration. Id. ; 9 U.S.C. § 4. " The standard for demonstrating arbitrability is not a high one; in fact, a district court has little discretion to deny an arbitration motion, since the [FAA] is phrased in mandatory terms." Republic of Nicar. v. Std. Fruit Co., 937 F.2d 469, 475 (9th Cir. 1991). Nonetheless, " arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit." AT& T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 648, 106 S.Ct. 1415, 89 L.Ed.2d 648 (1986) (quoting Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409 (1960)).

The FAA creates a body of federal substantive law of arbitrability that requires a healthy regard for the federal policy favoring arbitration and preempts state law to the contrary. Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs. of Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 475-79, 109 S.Ct. 1248, 103 L.Ed.2d 488 (1989); Ticknor v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., 265 F.3d 931, 936-37 (9th Cir. 2001). State law is not entirely displaced from the federal arbitration analysis, however. See Ticknor, 265 F.3d at 936-37. When deciding whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a certain matter, courts generally apply ordinary state law principles of contract interpretation. First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944, 115 S.Ct. 1920, 131 L.Ed.2d 985 (1995). Parties may also contract to arbitrate according to state rules, so long as those rules do not offend the federal policy favoring arbitration. Volt, 489 U.S. at 478-79. Thus, in determining whether parties have agreed to arbitrate a dispute, the court applies " general state-law principles of contract interpretation, while giving due regard to the federal policy in favor of arbitration by resolving ambiguities as to the scope of arbitration in favor of arbitration." Mundi v. Union Sec. Life Ins. Co., 555 F.3d 1042, 1044 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Wagner v. Stratton Oakmont, Inc., 83 F.3d 1046, 1049 (9th Cir. 1996)). " [A]s with any other contract, the parties' intentions control, but those intentions are generously construed as to issues of arbitrability." Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. ...


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