United States District Court, E.D. California
TERRY T. SNIPES, SR., an individual, Plaintiff,
DOLLAR TREE DISTRIBUTION, INC., a Virginia corporation, and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MORRISON C. ENGLAND JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the present class action, Terry T. Snipes, Sr., on behalf of
himself and those similarly situated (collectively
“Plaintiffs”), challenges various wage and hour
practices utilized by his employer, Dollar Tree Distribution,
Inc. (“Defendant” or “Dollar Tree”).
Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Compel
Arbitration and Amend Operative Class Definition. For the
reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 92) is
Tree initiated an arbitration program for prospective
employees approximately five years ago. Def.'s MPA ISO
Mot. to Compel Arbitration, ECF No. 92-1 at 1:13. In May of
2015, the program was expanded to include current employees.
At that time, current employees were given an opportunity to
either opt out or enter into an arbitration agreement with
Defendant. Id. at 13-15. As to any new individuals
hired on or after October 6, 2014, however, Dollar Tree
required an agreement to arbitrate as a condition of
employment (hereafter referred to as the “Arbitration
Associates”). Id. at 16- 18.
meantime, on April 1, 2015, Plaintiff Terry T. Snipes, Sr, an
existing Dollar Tree employee who had chosen to opt out of
the arbitration program, brought the first eight causes of
action against Defendant on a class-wide basis pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Pls.' SAC, ECF No. 39
at 1-2. In the Ninth through Sixteenth causes of action,
Snipes also sought civil penalties against Dollar Tree
pursuant to the provisions of California's Private
Attorney General Act (“PAGA”), California Labor
Code § 2699 et seq. Id.
following month, on May 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Ex Parte
Application for a Temporary Restraining Order
(“TRO”) seeking to compel Dollar Tree to
distribute an informational notice of the present lawsuit to
all its employees. At the May 21, 2015, hearing on the TRO,
Defendant differentiated between those employees hired before
October 6, 2014, who were given an opportunity to opt out of
the arbitration agreements, and the Arbitration Associates.
TRO Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 75-1, Ex. B at 3:5-4:8, May 21,
2015. Plaintiffs were concerned with whether arbitration
agreements would be enforced against those employees hired
before October 6, 2014. Id. at 5:3-8. In order to
eliminate concern, Defendant agreed not to enforce any
arbitration agreement entered into by employees hired prior
to that time. Id. at 3:19-4:8. Plaintiffs
acknowledged Defendant's agreement and as such, this
Court denied the TRO. Id. at 5:3-6:15. According to
Dollar Tree, as discovery proceeded it believed both sides
recognized that the Arbitration Associates were not included
within the class of employees participating in the lawsuit.
eventually moved to certify the class and subclasses to be
included as litigants. On November 28, 2017, this Court
granted that Motion and certified Plaintiffs' classes.
Order, ECF No. 63 at 11-14. Defendant then moved to
reconsider the class certification on September 17, 2018, and
that motion was denied. Order, ECF No. 84 at 2:4.
Tree now moves to enforce the arbitration agreements as to
the Arbitration Associates. Def.'s Mot. to Compel
Arbitration, ECF No. 92 at 1-4. Defendant further moves to
amend the operative class definitions to exclude the
Arbitration Associates from the class and subclasses to
account for enforcement of those agreements. Id.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) governs the
enforcement of arbitration agreements involving interstate
commerce. 9 U.S.C. § 2. 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. § 4. 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).
Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the strong national
policy favoring arbitration. See, e.g., Gilmer
v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24-25
(1991) (FAA's “purpose was .... to place
arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other
contracts, ” and recognizing a “liberal federal
policy favoring arbitration agreements”);
Shearson/Am. Express Inc. v. McMahon, 482 U.S. 220,
226 (1987) (FAA “establishes a ‘federal policy
favoring arbitration,' . . . requiring that we rigorously
enforce agreements to arbitrate.” (citations omitted));
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth,
Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 625 (1985) (federal policy of FAA is
one which guarantees the enforcement of private contractual
this policy, it is clear that a court is obligated to
liberally interpret and enforce arbitration agreements and to
do so “with a healthy regard for the federal policy
favoring arbitration.” Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v.
Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983).
Significantly, too, any doubts concerning arbitrability
should be resolved in favor of arbitration. Mitsubishi
Motors Corp., 473 U.S. at 624 n.13 (noting that the
appellate court “properly resolved any doubts of
arbitrability”); see also Hodsdon v. Bright House
Networks, LLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52494 at *6 (E.D.
Cal. Apr. 11, 2013) (“Because there is a presumption in
favor of arbitration, the Court is required to resolve any
doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues in favor of
determining whether to compel arbitration, the Court may not
review the merits of the dispute. Rather, in deciding whether
a dispute is subject to the arbitration agreement, a court
must answer two questions: (1) “whether a valid
agreement to arbitrate exists, ” and, if so, (2)
“whether the agreement encompasses the dispute at
issue.” 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. 9 U.S.C. § 4; Chiron,
207 F.3d at 1130. Accordingly, the Court's role “is
limited to determining arbitrability and enforcing ...