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Ortiz v. Volt Management Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 11, 2017

Adan Ortiz, Plaintiff,
v.
Volt Management Corp, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION RE: DKT. NO. 22

          Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers United States District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff brings this putative class action against defendants Volt Management Corp. (“Volt”) and Genco I, Inc. (“Genco”) for alleged violations of California's wage and labor laws. (Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.”).) Plaintiff brings the following five causes of action against defendants: (i) failure to pay hourly wages pursuant to Labor Code sections 223, 510, 1194, 1194.2, 1197, 1197.1, and 1198; (ii) failure to provide accurate written wage statements pursuant to Labor Code section 226(a); (iii) failure to pay all final wages timely pursuant to Labor Code sections 201 through 203; (iv) violation of California's Unfair Competition Law, Business & Professions Code sections 17200, et seq.; and (v) violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. sections 201, et seq. Plaintiff's allegations are asserted jointly against defendants without any differentiation.

         Now before the Court is defendant Volt's motion to compel plaintiff into arbitration and dismiss plaintiff's claims or, in the alternative, stay the entire case during the pendency of any arbitration proceedings. Subsequent to briefing on Volt's motion, defendant Genco filed a joinder, seeking that plaintiff's claims against it also be compelled to arbitration. Plaintiff opposes both motions. Having carefully reviewed the pleadings and the papers and exhibits submitted, and for the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court Orders as follows: The Court Grants Volt's motion to compel arbitration and hereby Compels plaintiff to arbitrate his claims against Volt. The Court reserves ruling on other issues pending further submission from the parties, as outlined herein.[1]

         I. Relevant Factual Background

         Plaintiff brings this claim against defendants for alleged wage and labor law violations in connection with plaintiff's employment with defendant Volt. (Id. at ¶ 1.) Defendant Genco provides defendant Volt with logistics support for its operations. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Generally, plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to provide all necessary compensation related to shift differentials, non-discretionary bonuses, premium wages for meal and rest periods, overtime wages, time spent clocking in and clocking out, and final wages following separation from employment. (Id. at ¶ 1.) Additionally, plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to provide accurate written wage statements. (Id.)

         Relevant to the instant motion, plaintiff signed a one-page “Employment Agreement” with defendant Volt on March 27, 2014, which contained the following arbitration provision:

AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE DISPUTES: Any employment and/or employment termination related disputes and/or disputes arising out of or relating to the actions of the Company (or Company's employees) and/or disputes arising out of or related to any assignment and/or termination of any assignment and/or arising out of or relating to the actions of the Client (or Client's employees), shall be settled by final and binding arbitration, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, in accordance with the employment rules of the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), which can be found at www.adr.org or a copy of the AAA rules can be provided to Employee upon Employee's request to the Company at the time of hire. The arbitrator may award any and all remedies in accordance with the laws of the state where Employee was last employed with the Company. The award shall be in writing, signed by the arbitrator, and shall provide the reasons for the award. Judgment upon the arbitrator's award may be entered in any court having jurisdiction. The Company and Employee hereby waive our respective rights to trial by jury of any cause of action or defense that each may have against the other or against any Client. This agreement to arbitrate disputes does not prevent Employee from filing a charge or claim with any governmental administrative agency as permitted by applicable law.

(Dkt. No.22-1 at 5, Employment Agreement ¶ 8.) Additionally, the AAA rules provide thus: “The arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope[, ] or validity of the arbitration agreement.” (RJN Ex. A at 17.)

         II. Legal Framework

         The Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) requires a district court to stay judicial proceedings and compel arbitration of claims covered by a written and enforceable arbitration agreement. 9 U.S.C. § 3. A party may bring a motion in the district court to compel arbitration. 9 U.S.C. § 4. In ruling on the motion, the court's role is typically limited to determining whether: (i) an agreement exists between the parties to arbitrate; (ii) the claims at issue fall within the scope of the agreement; and (iii) the agreement is valid and enforceable. See Lifescan, Inc. v. Premier Diabetic Servs., Inc., 363 F.3d 1010, 1012 (9th Cir. 2004).

         “Both the arbitrability of the merits of a dispute and the question of who has the primary power to decide arbitrability depend on the agreement of the parties.” Goldman, Sachs & Co v. Reno, 747 F.3d 733, 738 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 943 (1995); see also Oracle Am. Inc. v. Myriad Grp. A.G., 724 F.3d 1069, 1072 (9th Cir. 2013). An arbitrator, rather than the courts, decides these questions where “the parties clearly and unmistakably” express that intention. See AT&T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986); see also Rent-A-Ctr., W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 68-69 (2010) (“[P]arties can agree to arbitrate ‘gateway' questions of ‘arbitrability, ' such as whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate or whether their agreement covers a particular controversy.”). An arbitration clause including an agreement to follow a particular set of arbitration may constitute such an expression where those rules provide for the arbitrator to decide questions of arbitrability. See Poponin v. Virtual Pro, Inc., No. 06-CV-4019-PJH, 2006 WL 2691418, at *9 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2006) (finding the ICC Rules of Arbitration clearly “provide for the arbitrator to decide arbitrability”).

         Non-signatories to an arbitration agreement may, at times, be able to compel signatories into arbitration in situations where state contract law would allow such litigant to do so. See Arthur Andersen LLP v. Carlisle, 556 U.S. 624, 631-32 (2009); see also Kramer v. Toyota Motor Corp., 705 F.3d 1122, 1130 n.5 (9th Cir. 2013) (explaining that Andersen clarified that a “litigant who is not party to an arbitration agreement may invoke arbitration if the relevant state contract law allows the litigant to enforce the agreement”) (citing Andersen, 556 U.S. at 632).

         III. Volt's Motion to Compel Arbitration

         Volt moves the Court to compel plaintiff into arbitration, pursuant to the arbitration provision in their Employment Agreement. No dispute exists that the agreement at issue includes an arbitration provision. Additionally, the arbitration provision here incorporates the AAA rules, which delegate issues of arbitrability to the arbitrator. (Dkt. No. 22-1 at 5; RJN Ex. A at 17 (“The arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope[, ] or validity of the arbitration agreement.”). The Ninth Circuit has found that the incorporation of such rules constitutes a clear delegation of authority to the arbitrator. See Brennan v. Opus Bank, 796 F.3d 1125, 1128 (9th Cir. 2015) (holding that “incorporation of the AAA rules constitutes clear and unmistakable evidence that contracting parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability”). Accordingly, the Court need only address whether such delegation in the arbitration provision is valid and enforceable. See Mohamed v. Uber Techs., Inc., 848 F.3d 1201, 1209 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that where arbitrability has been delegated to the arbitrator, courts must enforce the agreements “in the absence of some other generally applicable contract defense, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability”); see ...


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