United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MORRISON C. ENGLAND JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the present action, Plaintiff Chad Horne
(“Plaintiff”) sues his former employer, Defendant
Starbucks Corporation (“Starbucks), on grounds that he
was discriminated against, and ultimately constructively
discharged, due to his sexual orientation. Plaintiff alleges
various claims premised on harassment, retaliation and
discrimination in contravention of both California's Fair
Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and public
policy. Plaintiff further alleges wage and hour claims in
violation of the California Labor Code. Although
Plaintiff's lawsuit was initially filed in Placer County
Superior Court, it was removed here on diversity of
citizenship grounds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332
now seeks an order compelling arbitration under the terms of
its Mutual Arbitration Agreement entered into by Plaintiff as
a condition of his employment. Starbucks requests that this
Court either dismiss or stay the present litigation pending
arbitration. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's
Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 9) is
began working as a barista for Starbucks in Auburn,
California on April 12, 2016. He claims that throughout his
employment with Starbucks, which lasted less than two months,
he “was forced to endure an openly hostile work
environment based upon his sexual orientation and/or his
perceived sexual orientation.” Pl.'s Compl, ¶
8. He claimed that he was belittled and insulted based on his
orientation and mannerisms and was told by his General
Manager to “tone down” his affect. Id.
at ¶¶ 10-14. Plaintiff states that two co-workers
went so far as to push their bodies against him in a
“physically threatening manner” which caused
Plaintiff to “feel threatened and caused him to cry
uncontrollably.” Id. at ¶ 9.
3, 2016, Plaintiff alleges he was told by Starbuck's
Reginal General Manager that Plaintiff “had caused an
uncomfortable work environment because he [could] not'
control his behavior and mannerism.'” Id.
at 15. Plaintiff was then sent home and states he decided the
next day that he had “no other reasonable option but to
terminate his employment” with Starbucks since he
“could no longer tolerate the openly hostile work
environment” to which he was subjected. Id. at
September 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in
state court. As indicated above, Starbucks proceeded to
timely remove the case to federal court on November 16, 2016.
Citing its agreement with Plaintiff to arbitrate any disputes
arising out of the course of his employment, Starbucks
subsequently filed the present Motion to Compel on January
about October 1, 2014, Starbucks began implementing a
requirement that, as a condition of employment, all new hires
must agree to arbitrate any claims arising out of their
employment. Decl. of Matthew Kennedy, ¶ 3. When
Plaintiff submitted his online application for employment on
May 1, 2016, he was expressly notified of that requirement.
Id. at ¶ 7, Ex. C. After he received an offer
of employment and before commencing work at Starbucks,
Plaintiff was required to electronically sign a Mutual
Arbitration Agreement which specifically encompassed any
claims pertaining to compensation, harassment,
discrimination, retaliation . . . accommodations or
termination of employment.” Id. at Ex. J.
Arbitration Agreement provided, in pertinent part, that 1) it
was a Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate by Starbucks and the
employee; 2) any arbitration would be governed by the rules
of the American Arbitration Association; 3) Starbucks would
pay all costs unique to arbitration; 4) a neutral arbitrator
would be mutually selected by the parties; 5) the arbitrator
would be required to issue a written ruling within 30 days
following the conclusion of the arbitration hearing.
Id. The Agreement further delineated the discovery
to which each side would be entitled, which included three
interrogatories, 25 requests for products of document, and
“a maximum of two eight-hour days of depositions of
witnesses.” Id. The terms of the Agreement
also authorized the arbitrator to decide any dispute related
to discovery and empowered the arbitrator to allow additional
discovery beyond that set forth above “upon a showing
of substantial need by either party or upon a showing of an
inability to pursue or defend certain claims.”
terms, Starbuck's Arbitration Agreement is governed by
the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq.
(“FAA”). The FAA allows “a party aggrieved
by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to
arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration [to]
petition any United States district court . . . for an order
directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner
provided for in [the arbitration] agreement”. 9 U.S.C.
this statutory directive, courts must compel arbitration in
disputes covered by a legally binding arbitration agreement.
Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985).
Valid arbitration agreements must be “rigorously
enforced” given the strong federal policy in favor of
enforcing arbitration agreements. Perry v. Thomas,
482 U.S. 483, 489-90 (1987) (citation omitted). To that end,
the FAA “leaves no place for the exercise of discretion
by a district court, but instead mandates that district
courts shall direct the parties to proceed to
arbitration on issues as to which an arbitration agreement
has been signed.” Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v.
Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985) (emphasis in the
original). In deciding whether to compel arbitration
proceedings under the FAA, the court's role is limited to
“determining (1) ...