United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
KELVIN R. STOVER Plaintiff,
VALLEY RUBBER, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Kelvin R. Stover, filed a complaint on October 29,
2018, against his former employer, defendant Valley Rubber,
LLC (“Valley”), alleging various civil rights
violations during his employment with the company. (Doc. 1).
On January 9, 2019, the defendant filed a motion to compel
arbitration and to stay the current proceedings pending
arbitration. (Doc. 6). The motion has been fully briefed and
is ripe for review. For the reasons below, the Court finds
that Valley’s Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay the
Proceedings Pending Arbitration (Doc. 6) is due to be denied.
issue in the present motion is the validity of an arbitration
agreement that Stover signed on July 20, 2017, before
beginning his employment with Valley. See (Docs. 7-1
and 7-2). Thus, a detailed recitation of the allegations in
Stover’s complaint is not necessary for purposes of
this memorandum opinion. It will suffice to note that,
according to his complaint, Stover began his employment with
Valley in July of 2017. Stover alleged that he was subjected
to a racially-hostile work environment; that he was
discriminated against based on his race; and that he was
harassed and retaliated against after he filed a complaint
with the EEOC. Stover resigned in February of 2018, but
claimed that his resignation was actually a constructive
discharge. Valley is seeking to enforce the purported
agreement to arbitrate these claims.
The Purported Arbitration Agreement
motion to compel arbitration, Valley attached two documents
that were signed by Stover on July 20, 2017. The first
document, entitled “Binding Arbitration Agreement,
” provides, in pertinent part, that Stover agreed to
“resolve any and all disputes related in any manner
whatsoever to his/her employment at Valley Rubber, LLC by
binding arbitration pursuant to the applicable rules of the
American Arbitration Association.” (Doc. 7-1, at 1).
That document also provided that
[d]isputes related to employment include, but are not limited
to, claims or charges based upon federal or state statutes,
including, but not limited to, Age Discrimination in
Employment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, and any other civil rights statute, The Americans
with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act or other wage
statues, the WARN Act, claims based upon tort or contract
laws or any other federal or state law affecting employment
in any manner whatsoever.
Id. Stover also signed a document contained in
Valley’s employee handbook entitled “Arbitration
Agreement (For New Employee).” (Doc. 19-2). That
document contained similar language regarding the arbitration
of employment disputes.
party has argued that Stover’s claims fall outside the
scope of the purported arbitration agreement. Rather, the
argument stems from the fact that neither of the
above-mentioned documents bears the signature of an
authorized representative from Valley. The “Binding
Arbitration Agreement” contains three lines for people
to place their signatures. Stover signed his name above the
line indicating “Employee’s Signature.”
(Doc. 7-1, at 2). Lauren Davis, Valley’s Human
Resources Manager, signed her name above the line indicating
“Witness.” Id. However, there is no
signature above the line for “Company
Representative.” Id. Similarly, Stover and
Davis placed their respective signatures above the lines for
“Employee’s Signature” and
“Witness” on the “Arbitration Agreement
(For New Employee).” (Doc. 7-2, at 3). However, there
is no signature above the line for “Employer Authorized
Agent’s Signature.” Id. The question
this Court must answer is whether the absence of a signature
from an authorized representative of Valley renders the
Standard of Review
presented with a motion to compel arbitration, “a
district court, rather than a panel of arbitrators, must
decide whether a challenged agreement to arbitrate is
enforceable against the parties in question.”
Magnolia Capital Advisors, Inc. v. Bear Stearns &
Co., 272 F.App’x 782, 785 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing
Chastain v. Robinson-Humphrey Co., 957 F.2d 851, 854
(11th Cir. 1992)). The party opposing a motion to compel
arbitration must “‘substantiate the denial of the
contract with enough evidence to make the denial
colorable.’” Magnolia Capital Advisors,
Inc., 272 Fed.App’x at 785 (quoting Wheat,
First Secs., Inc. v. Green, 993 F.2d 814, 819 (11th Cir.
1993)) (alteration in original omitted). In other words, the
opposing party must “present evidence that the
arbitration agreement is not valid or that it does not apply
to the dispute in question, ” to create an issue
regarding the enforceability of the purported arbitration
agreement. See Campbell v. CitiFinancial Mortgage Co.,
Inc., No. CV-06-BE-0302-E, 2006 WL 8436895, at *1 (N.D.
Ala. June 2, 2006) (citing Kenworth of Birmingham, Inc.
v. Langley, 828 So.2d 288, 290 (Ala. 2002)). As with the
inferences in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the
district court should draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the nonmovant. See Magnolia Cap. Advisors, Inc.,
272 F.App’x at 786.
Eleventh Circuit applies a summary judgment standard when
considering a motion to compel arbitration. The Court will
decide, as a matter of law, whether the parties entered into
an arbitration agreement only if “‘there is no
genuine dispute as to any material’ fact concerning the
formation of such an agreement.” Bazemore v.
Jefferson Capital Sys., LLC, 827 F.3d 1325, 1333 (11th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). A dispute is
considered genuine if it is supported by the evidence
presented or is created by evidence that is significantly
probative. See Id . at 1333(citing Baloco v.
Drummond Co., 767 F.3d 1229, 1246 (11th Cir. 2014)).
relevant facts surrounding this issue are not in dispute.
Stover does not dispute that he signed the documents in
question before he began his employment with Valley, and
Valley does not dispute that it failed to have an authorized
representative sign those documents. Additionally, the
language in the relevant documents speaks for itself.
Although there is a factual dispute about whether Davis,
Valley’s Human Resources Manager, made certain
statements to Stover about the effect of a company
representative’s signature on an arbitration agreement,
the Court does not need to consider those alleged statements
in reaching its decision.