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Davis v. Uber Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 25, 2017

BRIAN DAVIS
v.
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC.,

          MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

          Baylson J.

         In this case, Plaintiff Brian Davis alleges that Defendant Uber Technologies, Inc. wrongfully terminated his employment in November 2015 due to disability-based discrimination. Plaintiff seeks damages to redress his injuries under:

(1) Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”);
(2) Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”); and
(3) Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“PFPO”).

         Presently before the Court is Uber's Motion to Dismiss and compel arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and the contract entered into between Plaintiff and Uber (“Rasier Agreement”). Under the Supreme Court's decision in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63 (2010), and the Third Circuit's decision in South Jersey Sanitation Co., Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co., Inc., 840 F.3d 138 (3d Cir. 2016), Uber's motion is granted.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, the factual background is as follows. Uber is a technology and car service company that connects available transportation providers who can be hailed and dispatched with riders through a mobile application (“Uber App”). (ECF 3, Uber Mot., Ex. 1 ¶ 3.) The uberX application, one of many products offered by Uber, connects riders to vehicles operated by private individuals. (Id., Ex. 1 ¶ 4.) Any ridesharing transportation provider who wishes to access the uberX application must first enter into the Rasier Agreement. (Id., Ex. 1 ¶ 7.) Rasier-PA, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber responsible for providing lead generation services to ridesharing transportation providers through uberX. (Id. at 2.) The Rasier Agreement contains an arbitration clause (“Arbitration Provision”) that applies to “any dispute arising out of or related to [the Rasier] Agreement.” (Id., Ex. C § 15.3(i).)

         The Rasier Agreement does not require a driver to agree to the Arbitration Provision and provides a thirty-day time period during which a driver may opt out by notifying Uber through e-mail or mail. (Id., Ex. C § 15.3(viii) (stating that “[a]rbitration is not a mandatory condition of your contractual relationship with [Uber]”).) In order to accept the Rasier Agreement, a transportation provider must log on to the Uber App, where he will be presented with a hyperlink to the agreement. (Id., Ex. 1 ¶ 9.) To advance past this screen, the transportation provider must click “YES, I AGREE” to the terms presented. (Id.) A second screen asks the transportation provider to “PLEASE CONFIRM THAT YOU HAVE REVIEWED ALL THE DOCUMENTS AND AGREE TO ALL THE NEW CONTRACTS” by clicking “YES, I AGREE.” (Id.) After the transportation provider confirms his acceptance, the agreement is immediately sent to his Driver Portal, where it can be accessed by the driver at any time. (Id., Ex. 1 ¶ 10.)

         During the summer of 2015, Plaintiff initiated an application to sign up to become an Uber driver. (ECF 5, Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff's account was activated on October 19, 2015, and the following day he accepted the 2014 Rasier Agreement, through the Uber App. (Uber Mot., Ex. 1 ¶ 12.) In the thirty days following his acceptance of the Rasier Agreement, Plaintiff did not opt out of the Arbitration Provision. (Id., Ex. 1 ¶ 13.) Therefore, in November 2016 when Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit, he was subject to the Arbitration Provision if it was enforceable.

         Plaintiff filed suit against Uber on November 22, 2016 seeking back pay and front pay, punitive damages, liquidated damages, statutory damages, costs, and attorney's fees for allegedly wrongful termination that occurred in November 2015 (ECF 1). On February 27, 2017, Uber filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (ECF 3). Thereafter, on March 10, 2017, Plaintiff amended his Complaint (ECF 5). Additionally, on March 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to Uber's Motion to Dismiss (ECF 6). On March 21, 2017, Uber filed a Reply in further support of its Motion to Dismiss, emphasizing Plaintiff's failure to address its claim that the Rasier Agreement committed the issue of arbitrability to the arbitrator (ECF 7).

         II. Legal Standard

         The FAA, which governs the arbitration and arbitrability of disputes, provides that as a matter of federal law, “[a] written provision” in a commercial contract evidencing an intention to settle disputes by arbitration “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Because the FAA is reflective of a strong federal policy favoring arbitration, courts must “rigorously enforce agreements to arbitrate.” Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 221 (1985). The FAA places arbitration agreements on equal footing with respect to other contracts; therefore, arbitration agreements can be invalidated by “‘generally applicable contract defenses, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability.'” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011) (quoting Doctor's Associates, Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 687 (1996)). In Rent-A-Center, the Supreme Court held that when a party challenges an arbitration agreement as a whole, rather than specifically contests the delegation of authority to the arbitrator, the enforceability and applicability of the arbitration clause is to be decided by the arbitrator. Rent-A-Ctr., 561 U.S. at 72.

         The Third Circuit has interpreted Rent-a-Center in two precedential opinions. First, in Quilloin v. Tenet HealthSystem Philadelphia, Inc., 673 F.3d 221 (3d Cir. 2012), the court considered an arbitration agreement that “constitute[d] an agreement to arbitrate employment issues generally, ” but did not include a specific provision delegating the issue of arbitrability to the arbitrator. Id. at 229. This difference from Rent-a-Center, where there was an additional agreement to arbitrate threshold issues of arbitrability, compelled the conclusion in Quilloin that it was proper for the court to decide the matter of arbitrability. Id. Next, in South Jersey Sanitation, the Third Circuit held that, notwithstanding the plaintiff's characterization of his argument as a challenge to the agreement to arbitrate specifically, it was actually a challenge to the contract as ...


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