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Robinson v. American Family Care Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 10, 2018

ADRIAN ROBINSON, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN FAMILY CARE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          STACI G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

The court has before it the March 5, 2018 motion to dismiss and compel arbitration filed by Defendant American Family Care, Inc. (“AFC”). (Doc. 13). In response, Plaintiff filed a motion to stay pending arbitration. (Doc. 20). Pursuant to the court's March 7, 2018 order (Doc. 17), the motions are fully briefed and under submission as of March 27, 2018 (Docs. 14, 20-22). For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion to dismiss and compel arbitration is due to be granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion to stay is due to be granted.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Adrian Robinson, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated current and former employees, filed the instant complaint on January 23, 2018, alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Doc. 1). Specifically, the complaint states Plaintiff and other similarly situated current and former employees were misclassified as “exempt” employees and denied overtime wages. (Id.). Subsequently, Plaintiffs Kenner (Doc. 4), Gladney (Doc. 7), Hess (Doc. 8), and Weddington (Doc. 9) all “opted in” and agreed to be plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on February 19, 2018, and in response, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. (Docs. 12, 13).

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         AFC owns and operates AFC clinic locations in several states, including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. (Doc. 12 at 3-7). Robinson worked for AFC in various positions at various locations from 2015 until January 2018. (Doc. 12 at 11-13; Doc. 14-1 at 2). Kenner, Gladney, Hess, and Weddington all worked for AFC in various positions at various locations at different points in time between 2012 to 2017. (Docs. 4, 7, 8, 9; Doc. 14-1 at 2-3).

         At or around the time of their hire, Robinson, Gladney, Hess, Weddington, and Kenner all individually agreed to comply with AFC's arbitration agreement and procedures. (Doc. 14-3 at 2; Doc.14-4 at 2; Doc. 14-5 at 2; Doc. 14-6 at 2; Doc. 14-7 at 2). By signing the arbitration agreement and beginning employment with AFC, Plaintiffs agreed all claims, as defined by the arbitration agreement, would be submitted to binding arbitration and not to litigation. (Id.). Specifically, the arbitration agreement states:

As a condition of my continued employment with American Family Care, Inc, (hereinafter referred to as “AFC”), AFC and Employee agree to settle any controversy, dispute or claim arising out of or relating to my employment with AFC or the cessation of my employment with AFC, by final and binding arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association under its National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes (then in effect), and a judgment upon the award rendered by the single arbitrator may be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof. By way of example only, such claims shall include, but not be limited to, claims asserted under any federal, state or local statutory or common law, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (as amended), the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended), the Equal Pay Act (as amended), the Family and Medical Leave Act (as amended), the Immigration Reform and Control Act (as amended), the law of contract and the law of tort. The location of the arbitration hearing shall be in Birmingham, Alabama, AFC and Employee shall share equally all the administrative costs associated with the filing and prosecution of the Arbitration. Employee understands that he/she shall bear the expense of his/her own legal counsel, if necessary. The arbitrator shall, however, have the power to grant any relief available under the applicable federal or state statute, including attorneys' fees and costs. AFC and Employee acknowledge and understand that employment with AFC involves and affects interstate commerce.

(Id.).

         The amended complaint alleges violations of the FLSA. (Doc. 12). The arbitration agreement applies to “any controversy, dispute or claim arising out of or relating to [employee's] employment with AFC”, which includes claims regarding disputes over wages and employment classifications. (Doc. 14-3 at 2; Doc.14-4 at 2; Doc. 14-5 at 2; Doc. 14-6 at 2; Doc. 14-7 at 2).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties agree the claims at issue are subject to arbitration. (Doc. 21 at 3). The parties do not agree as to whether the court should dismiss the instant action or stay it during the arbitration proceedings. (Id.).

         Section 3 of the FAA states

If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the ...

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