United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORDANDUM AND ORDER
KATHRYN H. VRATIL, United States District Judge.
Termini filed suit against his former employer, Group 1
Automotive Inc. and GPI KS-SH, Inc. d/b/a Shawnee Mission
Hyundai, alleging that defendants retaliated against him by
terminating his employment after he filed a worker's
compensation claim. This matter comes before the Court on
Plaintiff's Motion To Compel Arbitration (Doc.
#28) filed August 20, 2019. For reasons set forth below, the
Court sustains plaintiff's motion.
employed plaintiff from June 15, 2018 to November 15, 2018.
Defendants' Response In Opposition To Plaintiff's
Motion To Compel Arbitration (Doc. #31) filed September
3, 2019 at 1. On June 13, 2018 plaintiff signed an employee
handbook which contains an arbitration provision pursuant to
the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).
Employee Acknowledgment And Agreement
(“Arbitration Agreement”), attached as
Exh. A to Defendants' Response (Doc. #31). On
March 12, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint for retaliatory
discharge in state court and defendants timely removed the
action to this Court pursuant to diversity jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1332. Notice of Removal (Doc. #1)
filed April 19, 2019.
24, 2019, defendants produced their Initial Disclosures under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26. Defendants' Response (Doc. #31)
at 3. Although plaintiff signed the Arbitration Agreement
during his employment, he asserts that he was not aware of
the agreement until after he reviewed defendants' initial
disclosures. See Plaintiff's Reply To Defendants'
Response To Plaintiff's Motion To Compel
Arbitration (Doc. #33) filed September 17, 2019 at 16.
On June 26, 2019, plaintiff emailed defendants and asked if
there was “any reason we should not stop everything and
arbitrate this matter.” 6.27.2019 Email,
attached as Exh. C to Defendants' Response (Doc.
#31). On June 27, 2019, the parties held a conference call to
discuss the Arbitration Agreement. See
Defendants' Response (Doc. #31) at 3. The
parties dispute the substance and outcome of the conference
call. Plaintiff asserts that the parties discussed
jurisdictional issues related to the arbitration provision.
See Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #33) at 6-8.
Defendants assert that the parties made an oral contract
agreeing not to enforce the arbitration provision. See
Defendants' Response (Doc. #31) at 3-4. As
evidence, defendants provide a follow-up email sent to
plaintiff on June 27, 2019, which summarizes defendants'
interpretation of the conference call:
[T]his will confirm our conversation earlier today.
Defendants have no objection to proceeding with this case in
federal court . . . and agree to waive any objection that
they might have to doing so as a function of the Arbitration
Agreements that Mr. Termini previously signed. We further
agree that we will not, at some later point in time, seek to
enforce the provisions of the Arbitration Agreement. As a
result, I believe that the parties now are in agreement that
there is no impediment to proceeding with our pending case in
the District of Kansas.
6.27.2019 Email, attached as Exh. C to
Defendants' Response (Doc. #31). Plaintiff never
responded to this email. See Defendants'
Response (Doc. #31) at 4; Plaintiff's Reply
(Doc. # 33) at 6.
August 20, 2019, plaintiff filed this motion seeking
enforcement of the Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff's
Motion (Doc. #28). Defendants do not dispute the
validity of the Arbitration Agreement; rather, they dispute
whether the agreement is enforceable. Defendants urge the
Court not to enforce the Arbitration Agreement because
plaintiff (1) made an oral agreement not to enforce the
Arbitration Agreement; (2) explicitly waived his right to
arbitration during the conference call on June 27, 2019; and
(3) implicitly waived his right to arbitration through his
conduct surrounding this litigation. Plaintiff denies the
existence of an agreement not to enforce arbitration and
claims that defendants have not met their burden to show that
he waived his right to arbitration. For reasons stated below,
the Court sustains plaintiff's motion to compel
policy favors arbitration agreements and requires the Court
to rigorously enforce them. Shearson/Am. Exp., Inc. v.
McMahon, 482 U.S. 220, 226 (1987) (citing Dean
Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 221
(1985)); see also Circuit City Stores, Inc. v.
Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 119, 122-23 (2001) (arbitration
agreements in employment contracts generally enforceable).
Normally, on a motion to compel arbitration under the FAA,
the Court applies a strong presumption in favor of
arbitration. ARW Exploration Corp. v. Aguirre, 45
F.3d 1455, 1462 (10th Cir. 1995) (FAA evinces strong federal
policy in favor of arbitration); see Moses H. Cone Mem.
Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983)
(court should resolve any doubts concerning scope of
arbitrable issues in favor of arbitration).
question of arbitrability - whether the parties agreed to
arbitrate a particular dispute - is an issue for judicial
determination. AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Comm'n
Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986). The
enforceability of an arbitration agreement “is simply a
matter of contract between the parties; [arbitration] is a
way to resolve those disputes - but only those disputes -
that the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration.”
Id.; see also PaineWebber Inc. v. Elahi, 87
F.3d 589, 594-95 (1st Cir. 1996) (arbitration is matter of
contract law). Generally, state law principles of contract
formation govern whether an enforceable arbitration agreement
exists. Hardin v. First Cash Fin. Servs., Inc., 465
F.3d 470, 475 (10th Cir. 2006).
party seeking to compel arbitration bears the initial burden
to present evidence that demonstrates an enforceable
agreement to arbitrate. SmartText Corp. v. Interland,
Inc., 296 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1263 (D. Kan. 2003). Once this
burden is met, the party opposing arbitration must show a
genuine issue of material fact as to the validity or
enforceability of the agreement. See id.
Essentially, this creates a summary-judgment-like standard
which the Court applies in deciding whether to compel
arbitration. See Clutts v. Dillard's, Inc., 484
F.Supp.2d 1222, 1223-24 (D. Kan. 2007) (courts of appeals
have uniformly applied summary-judgment-like standard to
motions to compel arbitration under FAA).
the record contains sufficient evidence of an enforceable
agreement to arbitrate. The Arbitration Agreement states that
the parties will arbitrate any dispute which arises out of
plaintiff's termination. See Arbitration
Agreement, attached as Exh. A to Defendants'
Response (Doc #31). This satisfies plaintiff's
obligation under the first step of the burden-shifting
framework. Defendants present three arguments why the Court
should not enforce the Arbitration Agreement: (1) plaintiff
orally agreed not to enforce the Arbitration Agreement; (2)
plaintiff explicitly waived his right to arbitration by
agreeing not to arbitrate; and (3) plaintiff implicitly
waived his right to arbitration through conduct in
Whether Plaintiff Contractually Agreed Not To Enforce The
assert that during their conference call on June 27, 2019,
the parties contractually agreed not to enforce the
Arbitration Agreement. As noted, the Court typically applies
a strong presumption in favor of arbitration on a motion to
compel arbitration under the FAA. ARW, 45 F.3d at
1462 (FAA evinces strong federal policy in favor of
arbitration). The Court applies state contract law to
determine whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable.
See Howsam v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 537 ...