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Hayward v. Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 28, 2015



ALETA A. TRAUGER, District Judge.

The parties have now completed court-ordered supplemental briefing (Docket Nos. 22-26) related to the defendant's pending Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, to Transfer (Docket No. 7). For the reasons discussed herein, the motion will be denied.


The background of this action is described in the court's March 24, 2015 Memorandum (Docket No. 20), familiarity with which is assumed. For context, the court will briefly describe the events underlying the plaintiff's claims and the procedural posture of the case.

I. Allegations of the Plaintiff's Complaint

The plaintiff, Duane Hayward, filed this action against his former employer, Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana ("Trinity"), on November 20, 2014. Hayward worked for Trinity, a church and religious non-profit corporation, between 2006 and August 2014 at Trinity's facility in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In January 2008, Hayward was promoted from a part-time position to a full-time role as a facilities supervisor. Upon his promotion, Hayward and Trinity executed a Comprehensive Arbitration Agreement (the "Agreement"). (Docket No. 9, Ex. 1.) The relevant portion of the Agreement states:

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.

(Id. (emphasis added).)

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 per 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. Procedural Background

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. ยง 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. The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the arbitration agreement is cost-prohibitive.

Upon review of the Agreement, the court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs with respect to a threshold inquiry: whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a dispute- i.e., whether a valid contract was formed and the scope of that agreement. The parties filed their supplemental briefs on April 13, 2015. (Docket Nos. 22, 24.)

III. The Parties' Supplemental Briefs

The plaintiff asserts that the Agreement is unenforceable because (1) it lacks the mutuality and definiteness necessary to be a valid contract; and (2) the contract is procedurally unconscionable because it is an adhesion contract. In support of his supplemental brief, the plaintiff also submits his own affidavit. In the supplemental affidavit, Hayward states that he does not recall signing the Agreement, but he presumes that it was "one of those many, many documents" that he was required to sign as a condition of his continued employment. (Docket No. 23.) Hayward further states that (1) there were multiple documents in the stack of employment paperwork given to him when he was promoted; (2) he does not recall who gave the paperwork to him, but he remembers being told that he could not begin work until he signed the paperwork; (3) no one explained to him anything about the Agreement; (4) no one advised him to consult with an attorney; (5) he signed the documents the same day that he received them; and (6) no one provided him with a copy of the paperwork that he signed. (Id. ) Hayward further states that he "do[es] not believe [he] understood [the Agreement] to impose any costs of arbitration on [him]." (Id. ) Hayward states that, if he had understood that he would be responsible for a pro rata share of ...

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