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Whitworth v. Solarcity Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 15, 2017

RAVI WHITWORTH, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
SOLARCITY CORP., Defendant.

          ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY RE: DKT. NOS. 56, 57 & 71

          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Ravi Whitworth brought this putative class and collective action against his former employer Defendant SolarCity Corporation (“Defendant”). The Court previously denied a motion to compel arbitration as to Plaintiff Whitworth. SolarCity then moved to stay the case pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris. (Dkt. No. 56.) Before the Court heard argument on that motion, Whitworth filed his First Amended Complaint adding four additional Plaintiffs. (Dkt. No. 68.) At the hearing on the motion to stay, SolarCity indicated that it intended to move to compel arbitration as to these newly added Plaintiffs. SolarCity's motion to compel arbitration or alternatively stay proceedings pending a decision in Morris is now fully briefed. (Dkt. No. 71.) Having considered the parties' briefs, and having had the benefit of oral argument on March 9 and May 11, 2017, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART SolarCity's motions.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         SolarCity provides solar power systems for public and private customers throughout the United States. (First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) ¶ 1.) Plaintiff Whitworth worked for SolarCity as a Photo Installer II for less than three months in 2015. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff Greg Carranza has worked for SolarCity since August 2015 as a Photo Installer I and II. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff Javier Frias worked for SolarCity as a Photo Installer I and II from August 2014 through May 2016. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff Cris Farrohki worked for SolarCity as a PV Installer from June through October 2013. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff Michael Whitford worked for SolarCity as a Jr. PV Installer and a Crew Lead from June to October 2013. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         There is no dispute that each Plaintiff was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment and that each arbitration agreement contains a waiver of Plaintiffs' rights to participate in a class, collective, or representative action. (Dkt. No. 41 at 2; Dkt. No. 71-3 at ¶¶ 12, 21, 30, 38.[1]) Each arbitration agreement also provides that any arbitration must be on an individual basis and that the arbitrator must decide whether Plaintiffs are “aggrieved persons for purposes of any representative or private attorney general proceeding.” (Dkt. No. 71-4 at 23, 53; Dkt. No. 71-5 at 13, 38-39.) Plaintiff Farrohki and Whitford's arbitration agreements also include clauses which provide that the representative and class action waiver clauses are non-severable from the agreement. (Dkt. No. 71-5 at 13, 38.)

         B. Procedural Background

         In March 2016, Plaintiff Whitworth filed this putative class and collective action on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated individuals alleging nine claims for relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the California Labor Code, California's Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”), and California Business & Professions Code § 17200 et seq. (Complaint at ¶¶ 73-128.) Plaintiff contends that SolarCity failed to (1) pay employees involved in the installation and maintenance of solar systems for travel time during the workday; (2) provide these same employees with statutorily protected meal and rest breaks; and (3) indemnify these employees for reasonable business expenses. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-48.)

         Shortly after Plaintiff filed this action, SolarCity moved to compel arbitration seeking to enforce the arbitration agreement and class action waiver Plaintiff signed prior to commencing employment. (Dkt. No. 15.) The Court stayed the motion pending the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP, No. 13-16599. (Dkt. No. 30.) Following the Ninth Circuit's Morris decision that class action waivers in arbitration agreements are invalid and unenforceable under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Court denied SolarCity's motion to compel arbitration. See Morris v. Ernst & Young, 834 F.3d 975 (9th. Cir. 2016). On January 13, 2017, United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Morris. Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris, No. 16-300, 2017 WL 125665 (U.S. Jan. 13, 2017). Defendant thereafter filed the now pending motion to stay. (Dkt. No. 56.)

         The day after SolarCity filed its motion to stay, the parties filed a Joint Discovery Letter Brief wherein Plaintiff seeks production of a list consisting of each class member's: (1) name; (2) mailing address; (3) email address; (4) personal phone number; (5) work location; (6) job title; (7) dates of employment; and (8) social security number for purposes of identifying updated contact information for the class member. (Dkt. No. 57.)

         Then, less than a week before the hearing on the motion to stay, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (FAC) adding four Plaintiffs: Greg Carranza, Javier Frias, Cris Farrohki, and Michael Whitford, as well as a claim under California Labor Code Section 223 for payment of wages below the designated rate. (Dkt. No. 68.) Notably, the PAGA claim is pled only as to Plaintiffs Carranza, Frias, and Whitworth. (FAC ¶¶ 134-144.)

         The Court heard argument on SolarCity's motion to stay on March 9, 2017, but the Court agreed to reserve ruling on the motion to allow SolarCity to move to compel arbitration as to the newly added Plaintiffs. That motion is now fully briefed. (Dkt. No. 71.)

         DISCUSSION

         SolarCity moves for an order compelling the additional Plaintiffs to arbitration, or alternatively, to stay proceedings pending the Supreme Court's disposition of Morris. Plaintiffs oppose both requests, and ask the Court to allow discovery; namely, ...


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