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Wilson v. Alorica Inc.

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

May 16, 2018

BERNARD WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALORICA, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION REGARDING ARBITRATION

          T. MICHAEL PUTNAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration filed by the defendant, Alorica, Inc., on February 20, 2018, supported by evidence. (Doc. 9). Defendant sought and received permission to supplement the motion. (Docs. 10, 11). Defendant filed a supplemental affidavit with exhibits.[1](Doc. 12). After seeking and receiving an extension of time, the plaintiff, Bernard Wilson, filed an opposition to the motion to compel arbitration (doc. 20), and the defendant filed a brief in reply (doc. 21). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge. (Doc. 15).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff Bernard Wilson filed a complaint seeking damages and injunctive relief against his former employer, Alorica, Inc., asserting that Alorica deprived him of rights secured by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) (“ADA”). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the action and to compel arbitration, asserting that the plaintiff agreed to arbitrate any claims arising from or relating to his employment. In support of its motion, the defendant provided the affidavit of Susannah Lawler, Regional Senior Human Resources Manager for Alorica, in which she states that “[a]t the outset of his employment with Alorica, and as a condition of his continued employment, Wilson entered into a binding ‘Agreement to Arbitrate.'” (Doc. 12, & 6). Attached to her affidavit is the purported agreement, which states in pertinent part:

In the interest of gaining the benefits of a speedy and impartial dispute-resolution procedure for any disputes which may arise between us concerning Your employment by the Company, You and the Company desire to submit any such disputes to binding arbitration as described below.
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual promises and undertakings contained herein, the parties agree as follows:

         All disputes, claims, or controversies arising out of or relating to your employment by the Company, the termination of your employment by the Company, and/or this Offer Letter, and any claims or disputes as to the scope and enforceability of this arbitration agreement, shall be resolved exclusively by final and binding arbitration. ...

(Doc. 12, p. 7).[2]

         Lawler asserts that “on October 2, 2015, Wilson, using his unique login ID and password, logged into Alorica's Employment Information System (“EIS”)”; she further states that Wilson “electronically acknowledged its terms by clicking on a button at the bottom of the document.” (Doc. 12, p. 4, & 7). Lawler asserts that such electronic acknowledgment could only be performed by a person using Wilson's unique login ID and password. A copy of the internal record of Alorica that manifests the acknowledgment is attached to her affidavit, and reflects that the acknowledgment occurred at 8:41 a.m. on October 2, 2015. (Doc. 12, p. 10). Wilson has responded that he does not recall receiving or signing the agreement at issue and further argues that the records reflect that his acknowledgment was obtained less than one-tenth of one second after he opened the document. He asserts that, because he could not have spent more than one-tenth of one second looking at the document, he could not have reviewed, read, or agreed to the terms. (Docs. 20, 20-1). Plaintiff further argues that the agreement was not signed and that, even if he “reviewed” the document, he did not agree to its terms. Finally, Wilson asserts that the language of the arbitration provision at issue is not broad enough to cover the statutory claims asserted in the complaint.

         Pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. (1988), a party to a written agreement involving interstate commerce[3] and containing an arbitration clause has a right to petition a district court to issue an order compelling arbitration. In Dunn Construction Co. v. Sugar Beach Condominium Assoc., the district court asserted that its “ultimate objective in reviewing a motion to compel arbitration is to ascertain if an arbitrable dispute exists between individuals or entities who may be compelled to arbitrate. If arbitration is appropriate, it then is the arbitrator's responsibility to resolve the merits of the parties' contentions.” 760 F.Supp. 1479, 1482 (S.D. Ala. 1991).

         There is a strong national policy favoring arbitration of disputes. Southland Corp. v. Keating, 465 U.S. 1, 10, 104 S.Ct. 852, 79 L.Ed.2d 1 (1984) (finding that “all doubts concerning the arbitrability of claims should be resolved in favor of arbitration”); see also Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983). The FAA provides, “[a] written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Further, the Supreme Court has stated that the “primary purpose [of the FAA is to ensure that] private agreements to arbitrate are enforced according to their terms.” Volt Info. Sciences, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 479, 109 S.Ct. 1243, 103 L.Ed.2d 488 (1989). The FAA was intended to “reverse the longstanding judicial hostility to arbitration agreements that had existed at English common law and had been adopted by American courts, and to place arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other contracts.” Jenkins v. First America Cash Advance of Ga., LLC, 400 F.3d 868, 874 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24, 11 S.Ct. 1647, 1651, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991)). The issues presented in the instant motion to compel arbitration are whether Wilson agreed to arbitrate his employment claims, and, if he did, whether the agreement encompasses his federal statutory rights provided under the ADA.

         A. Agreement to Arbitrate

          The plaintiff first asserts that there was no binding contract or agreement because the arbitration provision was not signed or dated. Under the FAA, an agreement to arbitrate must be “a written provision.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. However, there is no requirement that the agreement be signed by the parties. See Caley v. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., 428 F.3d 1359, 1368-69 (11th Cir. 2005), and cases cited therein. Because the FAA does not impose any requirement that the agreement be signed, the requirements for enforceability are determined by the applicable state law governing contracts.[4] The first issue, then, is whether the act of clicking a button on a computer to “acknowledge” an electronically-provided agreement can constitute an agreement to enter into a contract under Alabama law.

         As a threshold matter, it appears to be undisputed that Alabama adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act in 2001. See Alabama Code § 8-1A-1 et ...


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