United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
CORDELL ALLEN; ALIA CLARK; PATRICIA DEARTH; CHRIS DEPIERRO; JESSICA LEIGHTON; JESSICA PEREZ; JAMIE RIVERA; LAYFON ROSU; MARISSA SHIMKO; and CAROL SOMERS, Plaintiffs,
HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
action, Plaintiffs Cordell Allen, Alia Clark, Patricia
Dearth, Chris DePierro, Jessica Leighton, Jessica Perez,
Jamie Rivera, Layfon Rosu, Marissa Shimko, and Carol Somers
(“Named Plaintiffs”) seek relief
under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) on behalf of themselves
and other similarly situated employees. (Doc. 11.) As such,
Plaintiffs moved to conditionally certify a collective class
of disability claims analysts employed by Defendant Hartford
Fire Insurance Company (“The
Hartford”). (Doc. 51 (“Motion to
present motion, The Hartford moves to dismiss the claims of
four Named Plaintiffs and ten opt-in plaintiffs for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 96
(“MTD”); see also Doc.
132.) Specifically, the MTD argues that the
Court does not have jurisdiction over these claims because
the employees agreed to submit employment-related disputes to
arbitration. (Doc. 96.) Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Docs.
123, 133.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds
that the MTD is due to be granted.
Hartford's arbitration policy covers all employees: (1)
who received a written offer of employment on or before March
7, 2017; and (2) whose first day of work was on or after
April 1, 2012. (“New Hires”).
(Doc. 96-3 (“Arbitration
Policy”).) According to an affidavit submitted
by compliance officer Maria Q. Fazzino (“Ms.
Fazzino”), “The Hartford requires new
employees to review and agree to comply with an Arbitration
Policy and a New Hire Agreement.” (Doc. 96-1,
¶¶ 1, 2.) “When an employee certifies that he
or she has reviewed and agreed to comply with the Arbitration
Policy and New Hire Agreement, he or she receives a
Certificate of Completion, which includes their name and the
date and time they completed the process.”
(Id. ¶ 4.) “A Certificate of Completion
is also stored electronically by The Hartford.”
support their MTD, The Hartford has produced copies of
Certificates of Completion certifying that Scott Agnew,
Cordell Allen, Antonia Britt, Bretton Scott Brown, Alia
Clark, Melissa Cooper, Chris DePierro, Yanique Dixon, Jessica
Leighton, Michael Milton, Monica Tinsley, and Jordan Watkins
(“Arbitration New Hires”)
reviewed and agreed to comply with the Arbitration Policy and
The New Hire Agreement. (Doc. 96-1, ¶ 4; see
also Docs. 96-7, 96-8, 96-9, 96-10, 96-11, 96-12, 96-13,
96-14, 96-15, 96-16, 96-17, 96-18.)
on August 19, 2015, The Hartford offered other employees the
option of agreeing to the Arbitration Policy in exchange for
one additional day of paid time off (“PTO
Offer”). (Doc. 96-1, ¶ 6.) Hence The
Hartford's Arbitration Policy also covers employees who
accepted the PTO Offer. (See Doc. 96, pp. 4-5.)
affidavit, Ms. Fazzino avers that the process by which
employees selected whether to agree to the PTO Offer was
electronic. (Doc. 96-1, ¶ 7.) “After accepting or
declining participation in the Arbitration Policy, each
employee who responded to the offer received an Arbitration
Policy Certification stating whether they chose to agree to
the Arbitration Policy and the date on which they made their
choice.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Baronda Staten
(“Ms. Staten”) and Steven Wright
(“Mr. Wright”) assented to the
Arbitration Policy by accepting the PTO Offer and
electronically checking a box that read “Yes I have
read, understand and agree to comply with the Arbitration
Policy.” (Docs. 96-24, 96-25.) Based on the foregoing,
The Hartford requests that the Court dismiss the claims of
the Arbitration New Hires, Ms. Staten, and Mr. Wright for
lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. 96.) In their response,
Plaintiffs argue that the arbitration agreements are
unenforceable because The Hartford knowingly misclassified
employees as exempt and engaged in misconduct during the
pendency of Monserrate. (Docs. 123, 133.)
Notwithstanding Plaintiffs' claims of misconduct, the
Court finds that MTD is due to be granted.
the Federal Arbitration Act
(“FAA”), “courts must
rigorously enforce arbitration agreements according to their
terms.” Am. Express Co. v. Italian Colors
Rest., 133 S.Ct. 2304, 2309 (2013). Upon the motion of
any party to a valid arbitration agreement, courts must stay
or dismiss litigation of all claims that fall within the
agreement's scope and compel arbitration according to the
agreement's terms. See 9 U.S.C. §§
3-4. Several courts within this District have treated motions
to dismiss in favor of arbitration as motions challenging
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
agreements are presumptively valid and enforceable.
See 9 U.S.C. § 2. However, arbitration under
the FAA is ultimately “a matter of consent, not
coercion, ” Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs.
of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 479 (1989),
and parties opposing arbitration can challenge the formation
and validity of a contract containing an arbitration clause.
Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit recognizes “three
distinct types of challenges to a contract containing an
arbitration clause”: (1) challenges to the formation,
or “the very existence, ” of the contract; (2)
challenges “to the validity of the arbitration clause
standing alone”; and (3) challenges “to the
validity of the contract as a whole.” Wiand v.
Schneiderman, 778 F.3d 917, 924 (11th Cir. 2015).
under a delegation provision “parties may agree to
commit even threshold determinations to an arbitrator, such
as whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable.”
Parnell, 804 F.3d at 1146.
Analysis A. Choice of Law
deciding whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a certain
matter (including arbitrability), courts generally . . .
should apply ordinary state-law principles that govern the
formation of contracts.” First Options of Chi.,
Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995). The U.S.
Supreme Court, however, has added an important qualification:
“[c]ourts should not assume that the parties agreed to
arbitrate arbitrability unless there is clear and