ROSS DRESS FOR LESS, INC. and ROBERT KMET, Appellants,
ANNIE HIGGINS, KEENA MURRAY-BAILEY, KATIE SEYMOUR and QUINTAVIA THOMAS, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
of nonfinal order from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth
Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Michael A. Robinson, Judge;
L.T. Case No. CACE18012045.
A. Siegel and Michael A. Holt of Fisher & Phillips LLP,
Fort Lauderdale, for appellants.
Kleppin and Chelsea A. Lewis of Glasser & Kleppin, P.A.,
Plantation, for appellees.
defendant-employer and the defendant-supervisor appeal from
the circuit court's nonfinal order denying the
defendants' motion to compel arbitration of, and stay
judicial proceedings on, the plaintiff-employees' claims.
The defendants argue that the circuit court erred in finding
that the plaintiffs' claims - for discrimination,
retaliation, and hostile work environment in violation of the
Florida Civil Rights Act, and for negligent infliction of
emotional distress - were outside the scope of the
plaintiffs' arbitration agreement with the employer.
According to the defendants, the plaintiffs' claims fall
within the scope of the parties' arbitration agreement.
de novo review, we agree with the defendants and reverse.
See Am. Mgmt. Servs., Inc. v. Merced, 186 So.3d 612,
614 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) ("On appeal from the denial of a
motion to compel arbitration, the trial court's factual
findings are reviewed for competent substantial evidence, but
the court's legal analysis is reviewed de
novo.") (emphasis added).
Three Elements in Ruling on a Motion to Compel
both federal statutory provisions and Florida's
arbitration code, there are three elements for courts to
consider in ruling on a motion to compel arbitration of a
given dispute: (1) whether a valid written agreement to
arbitrate exists; (2) whether an arbitrable issue exists; and
(3) whether the right to arbitration was waived."
Seifert v. U.S. Home Corp., 750 So.2d 633, 636 (Fla.
1999). Here, all three elements favor the defendants.
a valid written agreement to arbitrate exists between the
plaintiffs and the defendants. In 2011, all four plaintiffs
electronically agreed to the defendant-employer's Dispute
Resolution Agreement providing, in pertinent part:
This Agreement sets forth the procedures that you and [the
employer] mutually agree must be used to resolve disputes
arising out of or relating to your employment with
[the employer] or its termination. Disputes
subject to this Agreement will be resolved by mediation or
final and binding arbitration and not by a court or jury.
This Agreement covers disputes both between you and
[the employer] or you and any other . . . agent
or employee of [employer], regardless of who
initiates the claim. Covered disputes include, but are
not limited to . . . termination, harassment, discrimination
and claims based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . and
similar state statutes and any related common law
an arbitrable issue exists. The plaintiffs' claims - for
discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment in
violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act, and for negligent
infliction of emotional distress - all arise out of and
relate to their employment with the defendant-employer,
involve disputes between the plaintiffs and the defendants,
and fall squarely within the "covered disputes"
quoted above. See Seifert, 750 So.2d at 637
("[T]he phrase 'arising out of or relating to'
the contract has been interpreted broadly to encompass
virtually all disputes between the contracting parties,
including related tort claims."); Santos v. Gen.
Dynamics Aviation Servs. Corp., 984 So.2d 658, 660 (Fla.
4th DCA 2008) (rejecting plaintiff's argument that