The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Yvette Kane
Plaintiffs Stephen Brown and Matthew Jury filed suit against Defendants TrueBlue and Labor Ready Northeast alleging violations of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 333.101 et seq., Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Stat. § 260.1 et seq., Pennsylvania's Check Casher Licensing Act, 63 Pa. Stat. § 2301 et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs moved for class certification of two classes pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and moved for certification of one collective action brought pursuant to the FLSA. (Doc. Nos. 27, 42.) Just prior to the hearing on class certification, Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. (Doc. No. 63.) The Court continued the hearing on class certification pending the resolution of the motion to compel arbitration. (Doc. No. 66.) The motion to compel arbitration has been fully briefed, and the Court held argument on the motion on September 8, 2011. For the reasons stated more fully herein, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to compel arbitration and stay these proceedings pending the completion of arbitration.
Defendants provide temporary staffing services, whereby Defendants send their employees to do work for a local business seeking short-term labor. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 16, 23.) Defendants' employees report to a branch office by 7:00 a.m., where Defendants provide their employees with a work assignment. (Id. ¶ 24.) The employees are paid each day they work upon completion of the work day. (Id. ¶ 23.) When the employees have completed their work for the day, they return to Defendants' branch office where they are given the option of being paid by check or by cash voucher. (Id. ¶ 28.) If an employee elects to use a cash voucher, the employee is given a voucher and a pin number, which the employee may redeem for cash at one of the cash dispensing machines located in the branch offices. (Id. ¶ 28.) Employees are charged a fee for using the cash dispensing machines totaling one dollar plus any change in the employee's net pay.*fn1 (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.) Plaintiffs, Defendants' employees, allege that the fees applied when using the cash dispensing machines often result in Defendants' employees being paid less than the prevailing minimum wage. (Id. ¶ 32.)
Both Plaintiffs Brown and Jury signed employment agreements. (Doc. Nos. 67-1, 67-2.) Those employment agreements included an "Employment and Dispute Resolution" section.
That section included, as a condition of Plaintiffs' employment, an arbitration provision providing:
1. Arbitration, Waiver of Jury Trial. Labor Ready and I agree that any claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or the breach of this Agreement, or my application, employment, or termination of employment, shall be submitted to and resolved by binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. Labor Ready and I agree that all claims shall be submitted to arbitration including, but not limited to, claims based on any alleged violation of a constitution, or any federal, state, or local laws; Title VII, claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, compensation due or violation of civil rights; or any claim based in tort, contract, or equity. Any arbitration between Labor Ready and I will be administered by the American Arbitration Association under its Employment Arbitration Rules then in effect. Labor Ready agrees to pay for the arbiter's fees where required by law. The award entered by the arbitrator will be based solely upon the law governing the claims and defenses pleaded, and will be final and binding in all respects. In any claim or jurisdiction where this agreement to resolve claims by arbitration is not enforceable, Labor Ready and I agree to submit our claims for resolution by a bench trial (trial by judge) specifically waiving a jury as the ultimate fact finder. (Id.) Plaintiffs Brown and Jury signed and dated their employment agreements on September 23, 2008, and July 16, 2009, respectively. (Id.)
The "Employment and Dispute Resolution" sections further included agreements to pursue relief via arbitration individually, rather than on a class basis. Specifically, Plaintiff Brown's agreement provides:
2. Class Actions. In any such arbitration, or in a court of competent jurisdiction if arbitration is prohibited by law, neither Labor Ready nor I shall be entitled to join or consolidate claims as a representative or member of a class, representative, or collective action. (Doc. No. 67-1.) Plaintiff Jury's agreement, under the heading "2. Representative Actions" provides that: "In any arbitration, or in a court of competent jurisdiction if arbitration is prohibited by law . . . . I must give my written consent to be represented in a lawsuit against Labor Ready and I will not represent anyone else without their written permission." (Doc. No. 67-2 (emphasis in original).)
Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a complaint with this Court on March 7, 2010. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendants filed an answer with affirmative defenses on May 17, 2010. (Doc. No. 16.) Notably, Defendants did not note the existence of an agreement to arbitrate in their answer. (Id.) Plaintiffs filed their first motion for class certification on December 23, 2010. (Doc. No. 27.) Plaintiffs filed a second motion for class certification on March 8, 2011. (Doc. No. 42.) On March 18, 2011, the Court scheduled a hearing on Plaintiffs' two motions for class certification to take place on June 10, 2011. (Doc. No. 52.) Briefing continued on the motions for class certification through May 10, 2011, when Defendants filed a motion for leave to file a sur reply brief in opposition to the second motion for class certification. (Doc. No. 61.) The Court granted Defendants' motion on May 26, 2011. (Doc. No. 62.)
On June 7, 2011, fifteen months after Plaintiffs filed their complaint and three days before the hearing on class certification was scheduled to be held, Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. (Doc. No. 63.) The Court issued an order continuing the hearing on the motions for class certification on June 7, 2011. (Doc. No. 66.) The Court heard argument on the motion to compel arbitration on September 8, 2011. (Doc. No. 78.) Following the hearing, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on September 13, 2011. (Doc. No. 79.) The parties ...