United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.
Pending before the court is a Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, to Transfer (Docket No. 7) filed by the defendant, Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana ("Trinity"). The plaintiff has filed a Response in opposition (Docket No. 10) to the defendant's Motion, to which the defendant has filed a Reply (Docket No. 15), and the plaintiff has filed a Sur-Reply with the court's permission (Docket No. 18). For the reasons stated herein, the court will order the parties to submit supplemental briefing related to the enforceability of the arbitration agreement.
I. Allegations of the Plaintiff's Complaint
On November 20, 2014, the plaintiff, Duane Hayward, filed this action against Trinity, his former employer. Trinity is a church and California religious non-profit corporation that does business in Tennessee as Trinity Broadcasting Network. In his Complaint, Hayward alleges that, between 2006 and 2008, he worked at Trinity as a production technician and, beginning in January 2008, as a facilities supervisor. Upon his promotion to facilities supervisor, Hayward and Trinity executed a Comprehensive Arbitration Agreement (the "Agreement"). (Docket No. 9, Ex. 1.) The Agreement states, in relevant part:
I [Hayward] agree and acknowledge that the Company and I will utilize binding arbitration to resolve all disputes that may arise out of the employment context. Both the Company and I agree that any claim, dispute, and/or controversy that I may have... shall be submitted to and determined exclusively by binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act under the jurisdiction of the County of Orange in the state of California, also in conformity with the procedures of the California Arbitration Act (Cal. Code. Civ. Proc. Sec. 1280 et seq., including section 1283.05 and all of the Act's other mandatory and permissive rights to discovery).
( Id. (emphasis added).) The Agreement sets forth additional terms for arbitration, including that (1) the arbitrator selected shall be a retired California Superior Court Judge, or otherwise qualified individual to whom the parties mutually agree; (2) the parties should adhere to the rules of procedure set forth by the California Code of Civil Procedure; and (3) the Agreement should not prevent the plaintiff from filing proceedings before California's Department of Fair Employment or Housing or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Hayward signed the Agreement on February 12, 2008. In an affidavit submitted in support of his opposition to the pending motion, Hayward states that he does not recall signing the Agreement, but he presumes that it was one of many documents that he was required to sign as a condition of his employment when he was converted from part-time status to a full-time role as facilities manager. (Docket No. 12.) Hayward further states that he signed the agreement the same day it was given to him and that he was not given an opportunity to consider the agreement or to consult with an attorney prior to signing it. ( Id. )
According to the Complaint, as the facilities supervisor of Trinity's Hendersonville location, Hayward was responsible for general maintenance of about 15 buildings situated on 37 acres of land, including landscaping and electrical work. Hayward alleges that, between his promotion to facilities manager in 2008 and December 2013, he was classified as an exempt employee and, therefore, he did not receive overtime pay for hours that he worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Hayward alleges further that, during this period, he regularly worked over 40 hours a week, typically working an average of 50 hours per week. Hayward alleges that, in 2013, he began to inquire whether he was properly classified as an exempt employee. Hayward further alleges that, in December 2013, Trinity voluntarily reclassified him as a non-exempt employee and began paying him on an hourly basis. Trinity terminated Hayward in August 2014.
II. This Action
Hayward filed this action on November 20, 2014, alleging that Trinity failed to properly compensate him for his overtime pay during the period that he was classified as an exempt employee. Hayward's Complaint alleges that Trinity was aware of Hayward's misclassification and, therefore, willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), by failing to properly compensate him.
Trinity filed the pending motion on December 16, 2014. Specifically, the defendant argues that this action should be dismissed because the Agreement requires that the plaintiff's claims be arbitrated in Orange County, California.
I. The Federal Arbitration Act
The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") was enacted to overcome courts' reluctance to enforce arbitration agreements. Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U.S. 265, 270 (1995); see also Cooper v. MRM Inv. Co., 367 F.3d 493, 498 (2004) ("Congress enacted the Federal Arbitration Act... to place arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other contracts.'"). Section 2 of the FAA states: "[a] written provision in any maritime transaction or contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction... shall be ...