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Guinn v. Cedarhurst Living, LLC

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 24, 2018

DARIEN GUINN, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Darien Guinn brings this action against his former employer, defendant Cedarhurst Living, LLC d/b/a Addington Place of Prairie Village. Plaintiff asserts race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims against defendant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Also, plaintiff asserts that defendant engaged in unlawful discrimination based on plaintiff's race, violating 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         Defendant has responded to plaintiff's Complaint by filing a Motion to Dismiss, Stay Proceedings, and Compel Arbitration. Doc. 9. For reasons explained below, the court denies defendant's motion.

         I. Factual Background [1]

         Plaintiff worked for defendant as a kitchen employee at defendant's assisted living center in Prairie Village, Kansas, until defendant terminated his employment in February 2017. Doc. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 11). When plaintiff applied for his job in 2015, he completed an online job application with defendant's predecessor, Benton House Assisted Living and Memory Care of Prairie Village (“Benton House”). Doc. 15. That application included the following provision:

I understand and agree that:
. . .
5. The Company has adopted a Mandatory Complaint Procedure whereby all employment disputes relating to the employment relationship or termination are put into a dispute resolution procedure, which ultimately culminates in final and binding arbitration before a neutral arbitrator selected through the American Arbitration Association. This procedure is very low in cost and can be utilized quickly. I understand that it is a condition of employment to follow this Mandatory Complaint Procedure as long as it remains in effect and as modified from time to time. I understand that I am giving up my right to go to Court to have employment disputes decided by a jury.

         Id. at 4. In 2016, Benton House sold its assisted living center to defendant. Afterward, defendant became plaintiff's employer. Defendant asserts that, by signing his application, plaintiff entered a binding arbitration agreement that requires him to submit his claims in this lawsuit to arbitration. The court considers defendant's argument, below.

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., requires that “[a] written provision in any . . . contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable . . . .” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Section 3 of the FAA permits the court to stay litigation in favor of arbitration. The United States Supreme Court interprets the FAA to establish “‘a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.'” Epic Sys. Corp. v. Lewis, __ U.S. __, 138 S.Ct. 1612, 1621 (2018) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)). The Supreme Court's holdings thus instruct that the FAA requires “liberal reading of arbitration agreements.” Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 23 n.27; see also ARW Expl. Corp. v. Aguirre, 45 F.3d 1455, 1462 (10th Cir. 1995) (explaining that the FAA “evinces a strong federal policy in favor of arbitration” (citing Shearson/Am. Express, Inc. v. McMahon, 482 U.S. 220, 226 (1987))).

         When an agreement contains an arbitration clause, “a presumption of arbitrability arises . . . .” ARW Expl. Corp., 45 F.3d at 1462 (citing AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 650 (1986)). But, “because ‘arbitration is a matter of contract' and the authority of an arbitrator arises only from the parties['] agreement to that forum in advance, ‘a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which [it] has not agreed so to submit.'” Sanchez v. Nitro-Lift Techs., L.L.C., 762 F.3d 1139, 1146 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting AT & T Techs., 475 U.S. at 648-49); see also Hicks v. Cadle Co., 355 Fed.Appx. 186, 192 (10th Cir. 2009) (“[T]he FAA's proarbitration policy does not operate without regard to the wishes of the contracting parties.” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         The presumption of arbitrability thus “falls away” when the parties dispute whether a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement exists. Riley Mfg. Co. v. Anchor Glass Container Corp., 157 F.3d 775, 779 (10th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). A court still may compel arbitration, but “only when satisfied that the making of the agreement [to arbitrate] is not at issue.” Nat'l Am. Ins. ...

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