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Guerrero v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 21, 2017

LUIS GUERRERO, on behalf of himself, all others similarly situated, and on behalf of the general public, Plaintiffs,
v.
HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES, INC.; and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STAY AND HOLDING IN ABEYANCE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION (ECF NOS. 29 & 38)

          Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a putative class action lawsuit brought by Plaintiff Luis Guerrero, who was formerly employed by Defendant Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., seeking to represent a class composed of “[a]ll persons who are employed or have been employed by Defendant in the State of California as hourly, Non-Exempt [sic] truck workers, industrial truck workers, industrial truck drivers, industrial vehicle drivers, industrial workers, and/or other similar job designations and titles during the period of the relevant statute of limitations, ” and several derivative sub-classes. ECF No. 21 (Second Amended Complaint or “SAC”) ¶ 31. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated provisions of the California Labor Code, Business and Professions Code, and several of the Industrial Welfare Commission's Wage Orders for at least four years prior to the 2016 filing of this action in failing to pay all “straight time wages, ” failing to pay overtime, failing to pay all wages due at the time of termination, and for unfair business practices. See Id. ¶¶ 5-17, 24-25.

         The Court previously adjudicated two of Defendant's motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), ECF Nos. 10 & 20, and provided Plaintiff with one final opportunity to amend the deficiencies it identified in his first amended complaint. ECF No. 20 at 16. Plaintiff subsequently filed the SAC, ECF No. 21, and Defendant answered, ECF No. 23. Now before the Court are (1) Defendant's motion to compel individual arbitration (ECF No. 29) and (2) Defendant's protective motion to stay pending a Supreme Court decision, or alternatively, pending appellate review of any denial of Defendant's pending motion to compel (ECF No. 38). Both matters are fully briefed, and have been submitted for a decision on the papers pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). ECF Nos. 35 & 42.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to stay these proceedings pending the Supreme Court's forthcoming decision in Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, Dkt. No. 16-300 and HOLDS IN ABEYANCE Defendant's motion to compel arbitration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's sworn declaration (ECF No. 31-1) and judicially noticeable documents[1] filed in conjunction with the parties' pleadings.

         A. Plaintiff's Employment and Signing of the Arbitration Agreements

         Plaintiff worked as a driver for Defendant from approximately May 5, 2014 to January 12, 2015. Guerrero Decl. ¶ 2. On March 3, 2014, Plaintiff submitted an online application for employment to be a driver for Defendant, in which he acknowledged the arbitration provision. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Specifically, the application that Plaintiff completed contained the following disclosure:

I agree that, in return for its consideration of my application for employment, any dispute between Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. and me related to the application process will be resolved under the Halliburton Dispute Resolution Program [“DRP” or “Plan”], and that I may obtain a copy of the DRP from the Human Resources Department. I understand that this means that disputes involving legal issues must be submitted to binding arbitration, and that I am waiving any right to maintain a lawsuit or have a jury trial for any such dispute. I also understand that this does not obligate Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. to employ me, but that if I am employed, any dispute between Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. and me relating to my employment also will be subject to the DRP.

Merritt Decl. (ECF No. 29-1) ¶ 10; Id., Ex. A.

         On March 19, 2014, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter offering him employment as a driver. Guerrero Decl. ¶ 5. The offer letter stated that Plaintiff's acceptance of employment with Defendant “means you also agree to and are bound by the terms of the Halliburton Dispute Resolution Program … This will be true during your employment and after your employment should terminate.” Merritt Decl. ¶ 14; Id., Ex. C.

         Plaintiff accepted Defendant's offer and began employment with Defendant as a driver on May 5, 2014. Guerrero Decl. ¶ 6. On May 5, 2014, Plaintiff received and executed a “Driver Responsibilities Agreement, ” which included a provision that indicated that his signature of the agreement amounted to his agreement that “[a]ny disputes arising under or in any way related to the Agreement shall be resolved exclusively through the Halliburton Dispute Resolution Program which includes binding arbitration as its last step.” Id. ¶ 7; Merritt Decl. ¶ 15; Id., Ex. D.

         Plaintiff avers that he did not have the opportunity to review or ask questions about the three mandatory arbitration agreements he signed in connection with his employment with Defendant, nor was he given the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the arbitration agreements, which were presented to him on pre-typed forms. Guerrero Decl. ¶¶ 8-9, 13. None of the three arbitration agreements Plaintiff signed had an opt-out provision. Id. ¶ 14.

         B. The Terms of the DRP

         In three instances-when he executed his employment application, accepted the offer letter, and signed the Driver Responsibilities Agreement upon beginning employment-each of which incorporated the DRP by reference, see Merritt Decl. ¶¶ 10, 14, 15, Plaintiff agreed that “[a]ll disputes not otherwise settled by the Parties shall be finally and conclusively resolved through arbitration under this Plan and the Rules, instead of through trial before a Court, ” and that “[p]roceedings under the Plan, including arbitration, shall be the exclusive, final and binding method by which Disputes are resolved. DRP Plan (ECF No. 29-2, Ex. A) at 5.

         The DRP further provides, in relevant part, as follows:

“Dispute” means all legal and equitable claims, demands, and controversies, of whatever nature or kind, whether in contract, tort, under statute or regulation, or some other law, between persons bound by the Plan or by an agreement to resolve Disputes under the Plan … including, but no limited to, any matters with respect to … [t]he employment or potential re-employment of an Employee, including the terms, conditions or termination of such employment with the Company; … [a]ny other matter relating to or concerning the relationship between the Employee and the Company including, by way of example and without limitation, allegations of … failure to pay wages… …
Each Dispute shall be arbitrated on an individual basis. Neither the Company nor any Employee or Applicant may pursue any Dispute on a class action, collective action or consolidated basis or in a representative capacity on behalf of other persons or entities who are claimed to be similarly situated, or participate as a class member in such a proceeding. The arbitrator in any proceeding under this ...

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