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Franklin v. Community Regional Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 6, 2019

ISABELLE FRANKLIN, individually and behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Fresno Community Hospital and Medical Center's (erroneously named as Community Regional Medical Center f/k/a Fresno Community Hospital and Medical Center) motion to compel arbitration, filed October 23, 2019.[1] (Doc. 36.)

         Plaintiff Isabelle Franklin filed her opposition on November 6, 2019 (Doc. 38), and Defendant filed its reply in support of the motion to compel arbitration on November 13, 2019 (Doc. 40.) The Court reviewed the parties' papers and all supporting material and found the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). The hearing set for November 20, 2019, was therefore vacated. (Doc. 43.) Plaintiff thereafter was granted leave to file a sur-reply, which she filed on November 26, 2019. (Doc. 45.)

         Having considered the parties' briefing, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion will be granted, and this action will be dismissed without prejudice.[2]


         Plaintiff, a registered nurse, was employed by United Staffing Solutions, Inc. (“USSI”), a contingent labor staffing provider. (Doc. 36-3, Declaration of Geoffrey C. Westbrook (“Westbrook Decl.”) ¶ 2 and Ex. A; Doc. 40-1, Reply Declaration of Geoffrey C. Westbrook (“Westbrook Reply Decl.”) ¶¶ 3-4 and Exs. A-C.) On November 30, 2017, Plaintiff entered into a “Mediation and Arbitration Policy and Agreement” with USSI (the “Arbitration Agreement”). (Doc. 36-3, Westbrook Decl. ¶ 2 and Ex. A.) The Arbitration Agreement, which was a term of Plaintiff's employment, contained the following provision:

[Plaintiff] and USSI [defined to include its “owners, directors, officers, managers, or agents”] agree that if we are unable to first resolve the dispute (also called a “claim” in this Policy) informally and through mediation with a neutral mediator, we agree to use binding arbitration as the exclusive means to resolve all disputes that may arise out of or be related to your employment, including but not limited to the termination of your employment and your compensation.

Id. Ex. A. at 1.

         On December 21, 2017, Plaintiff executed a “Travel Nurse Assignment Contract” with USSI (the “Assignment Contract”). (Doc. 40-1, Westbrook Reply Decl. ¶ 4 and Ex. C.) The Assignment Contract assigned Plaintiff to work for a minimum of thirteen weeks as a “traveler” nurse at Defendant Fresno Community Hospital and Medical Center (the “Hospital”).[3] (Id. Ex. C. ¶ 1; Doc. 36-4, Declaration of Terry Nye (“Nye Decl.) ¶ 3.) Under the Assignment Contract, Plaintiff agreed to provide USSI her availability to work “based upon assignment and shifts confirmed with USSI and the [Hospital]” and USSI in turn agreed to schedule Plaintiff to work at the Hospital a minimum number of hours per week “except as dictated by the [Hospital]'s cancellation policy for Travel personnel.” (Doc. 40-1, Westbrook Reply Decl. ¶ 4 and Ex. C ¶ 2.)

         The Assignment Contract set Plaintiff's total contracted hours, shift hours, hourly rates, and “travel reimbursement” for her assignment at the Hospital. (Id. Ex. C.) It also set the hourly rate for overtime and provided that “[a]ll overtime will be paid for all approved hours worked over 8 hours per day, or greater than 40 hours per week, as dictated by Hospital policy and/or State Law based upon your work schedule. [Please note that any overtime must be approved by USSI prior to working, or we cannot guarantee overtime compensation].” (Id. Ex. C ¶ 11.) USSI agreed under the Assignment Contract to process Plaintiff's payroll via weekly direct deposit and to deduct all applicable taxes. (Id. ¶ 10.) The Assignment Contract further provided that all “Pre-Employment Testing, Licenses & Certifications, Modules, Onboard and Annual Compliance Requirements, that are required for this assignment, are to be completed at [Plaintiff's] own time and [Plaintiff] will not be compensated for [Plaintiff's] time to finish these assignment requirements.” (Id. ¶ 5.)

         Finally, the Assignment Contract contained an arbitration provision that provides, in reference to the Arbitration Agreement, that

any controversy or claim arising under federal, state, and local statutory or common or contract law between [USSI] and [Plaintiff] involving the construction or application of any of the terms, provisions, or conditions of the [Assignment Contract], including, but not limited to, breach of contract, tort, and/or fraud, must be submitted to neutral binding arbitration on the written request of either Party served on the other. Arbitration is the exclusive forum for any such controversy, refer to United Staffing Solutions Inc's employee handbook for more information about our arbitration policy.

(Id. ¶ 21.)

         Plaintiff's assignment at the Hospital was terminated on January 17, 2018. (Doc. 36-5, Milton Decl. ¶ 8.) On May 20, 2019, Plaintiff filed this putative class and collective action against the Hospital for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and California's Labor Code and unfair competition laws. (Doc. 1.) As alleged in her complaint, the Hospital failed to provide Plaintiff and other similarly situated nursing staff with (1) pay for all hours worked; (2) pay for all overtime worked; (3) proper meal and rest breaks; (4) complete and accurate wage statements; (5) all pay owed at the time of termination; and (6) reimbursement for business expenses. (See id. ¶¶ 44-52, 55, 89, 98, 108, 118, 129, 158.) Plaintiff alleges that these failures were the result of the Hospital's “longstanding policy and ...

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