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Parker v. Briad Wenco, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 14, 2019

JENNIFER PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAD WENCO, LLC d/b/a WENDY'S Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LYNNE A. SITARSKI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jennifer Parker commenced the instant action against Defendant Briad Wenco, LLC, d/b/a Wendy's, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 (e), et seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951. Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings Pending Arbitration and Supporting Memorandum of Law (ECF No. 11) based on an arbitration agreement signed by Plaintiff before she started her employment.

         For the reasons set forth below, I respectfully recommend the motion be GRANTED and the proceedings STAYED pending arbitration of this dispute.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On April 27, 2017, Plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement upon hire as a crew member at a Wendy's fast food restaurant owned by Defendant. (Def.'s Mot. Compel Arb'n 1-3; Pl.'s Resp. 5). The arbitration agreement contained the following provisions:

I, s/Jennifer Parker, in consideration of my hiring by Briad Wenco, L.L.C. (“the Company”) and for other good and sufficient consideration, expressly agree as follows:
1. Any claim, controversy or dispute (hereafter “claim”) that I have against the Company or the Company has against me, arising from or relating to my employment or the termination of my employment with the Company (its owners, directors, officers, managers, employees, agents, franchisors or any company owned by or affiliated with the Company) shall be fully heard and settled by binding arbitration in accordance with the JAMS Employment Arbitration Rules & Procedures (the “Rules”) and judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. The parties agree that it is intended that the entire controversy or dispute between the parties, from commencement of the controversy or dispute through the arbitration hearing, including all discovery, be brought in JAMS.

         2. The claims covered by this Agreement include, but are not limited to:

• claims alleging discrimination or harassment under federal, state or local law or regulation…

         (Def.'s Mot. Compel Arb'n 2-3, Ex. A at 1-2; Pl.'s Resp. Ex. B at 1-2) (emphasis added).

         On November 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, alleging violations under 42 U.S.C. § 2000 (e), et seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act under 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951, arising out of alleged sexual assaults against Plaintiff by her manager, Defendant's employee. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 15, 16, ECF No. 1). Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings Pending Arbitration, along with a copy of the arbitration agreement. (ECF Nos. 6, 7, 8, 11, 24). Plaintiff filed a response. (ECF No. 12). By Order dated February 13, 2019, (ECF No. 22), the Honorable C. Darnell Jones II referred the motion to me for a Report and Recommendation.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When deciding whether to grant a motion to compel arbitration, the district court must apply either the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss standard or the Rule 56 summary judgment standard. Lawson v. City of Philadelphia, 2019 WL 934976, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 25, 2019); (citing Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764, 773-74 (3d Cir. 2013)). “[W]hen it is apparent, based on the face of a complaint, and documents relied upon in the complaint, that certain of a party's claims are subject to an enforceable arbitration clause, a motion to compel arbitration should be considered under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard without discovery's delay.” Silfee v. Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 696 Fed.Appx. 576, 578 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Guidotti, 716 F.3d at 776). If a party attaches an “authentic arbitration agreement” to a Motion to Compel Arbitration, the court must apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standard unless the plaintiff “respond[s] to a motion to compel arbitration with additional facts sufficient to place the agreement to arbitrate in issue.'” Silfee, 696 Fed.Appx. at 578.

         “The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, under any ‘plausible' reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff would be entitled to relief.” Guidotti, 716 F.3d at 772; see Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Accordingly, when applying the Rule 12(b)(6) standard to a motion to compel arbitration, “courts should examine whether there can be no reading of the Complaint that could rightly relieve Plaintiff of the arbitration provision.” Lawson, 2019 WL 934976, at *6; see Guidotti, 716 F.3d at 777 (“Under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, there would be no reading of the complaint . . . that could rightly relieve her of the arbitration provision in the Account Agreement.”). The burden falls on the defendant to show the plaintiff failed to state a claim. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Compel Arbitration

          The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq., “establishes a strong federal policy in favor of compelling arbitration over litigation.” Lawson, 2019 WL 934976, at *1; see also AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011); Sandvik AB v. Advent Int'l Corp., 220 F.3d 99, 104 (3d Cir. 2000). Section 2 of the FAA provides that a written agreement to arbitrate “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Id. (citing 9 U.S.C. § 2); see also Lawson, 2019 WL 934976, at *1. Section 2 “reflects the fundamental principle that arbitration is a matter of contract” and “places arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts and requires courts to enforce them according to their terms.” Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 67 (2010) (internal citations omitted).

         When one party to an arbitration agreement refuses to arbitrate, the aggrieved party “may petition any United States district court . . . for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4; Lawson, 2019 WL 934976, at *1. The court “exercise[s] plenary review over questions ...


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