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Hackler v. R.T. Moore Co., Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

December 21, 2017

JEREMIAH HACKLER, on behalf of himself and those similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
R.T. MOORE CO., INC., an Indiana profit corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, alternatively, Stay Proceedings and Compel Arbitration (Doc. #18) filed on July 3, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #24) on July 31, 2017, and defendant filed a Reply (Doc. #27) on August 15, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration is granted and the motion to dismiss is denied.

         I.

         On June 12, 2017, plaintiff Jeremiah Hackler (Hackler) filed a Collective Action Complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act on behalf of himself and other similarly-situated individuals (Doc. #1) against defendant R.T. Moore Co., Inc. (Moore). The Complaint asserts that during plaintiff's employment with Moore, plaintiff was not paid overtime and minimum wage pay in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (Id. ¶ 1.)

         Hackler was employed with Moore as a plumber intermittently from 2012 through 2015. (Id. ¶ 35.) In January 2015, after a period of not being employed by Moore, Hackler resubmitted an application for employment and was rehired. (Doc. #18, ¶¶ 3-4.) On January 15, 2015, plaintiff and Moore voluntarily entered into an Agreement to Arbitrate Certain Disputes (the “Arbitration Agreement”). (Id. ¶ 5; Doc. #18-1.) The Arbitration Agreement outlines the process for resolving disputes between Moore and its employees, and provides the following:

If any Dispute which is not resolved to your satisfaction through informal means, and either you or the Company wish to pursue the matter further, the Dispute must be referred to mandatory binding arbitration to be administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its Employment Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures (“AAA Rules”) in effect at the time of the initiation of the arbitration.

(Doc. #18-1, pp. 2-3.)[1]

         The Arbitration Agreement provides that a party with a Dispute shall provide written notice to the other party within six months of the accrual of any claim. (Id. at 3.)

         Specifically, the Arbitration Agreement states:

[A]ny party with a Dispute must give written notice to the other party within six months of the accrual of the claim; otherwise the claim shall be void and deemed waived even if there is a state or federal statute which would have given more time to pursue the claim.

(Id.) The Arbitration Agreement also contains a waiver of the right to bring and/or participate in a class (or collective) action against Moore. (Id. at 7.) Specifically, the provision provides:

To the fullest extent permitted by law, you hereby waive any right to participate in a class action or to bring any claim against the Company as part of a class. Any Dispute or proceeding shall be pursued on an individual basis.

(Id.)

         On April 13, 2015, Moore terminated plaintiff's employment, and on May 12, 2017, plaintiff brought the underlying Complaint under the FLSA. (Doc. #1; Doc. #18, ¶¶ 11-12.) Defendant now moves to dismiss or, alternatively, to stay the proceedings and compel Hackler to arbitrate his claims, asserting that the binding Arbitration Agreement prevents Hackler from participating in this lawsuit. (Doc. #18.) Specifically, Moore asserts that: (i) Hackler failed to submit his FLSA claims to final and binding arbitration prior to filing a lawsuit against Moore in federal court; (ii) Hackler failed to provide Moore with a minimum of six months' notice of accrual of Hackler's claim against Moore and therefore Hackler's claim is void and waived; and (iii) Hackler improperly brought a collective action against Moore. (Id. ΒΆ 13.) Hackler filed a Response in Opposition only challenging the provision requiring written notice within six months of the accrual of plaintiff's claim. (Doc. #24, p. 7.) ...


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