United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
BRITTANY SMILEY, individually, and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN FAMILY CARE, INC., and AMERICAN FAMILY CARE OF TENNESSEE, LLC, Defendants.
RICHARDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and
Compel Arbitration. (Doc. No. 18.) For the reasons stated
herein, Defendants' Motion will be DENIED, and this
action will be STAYED pending arbitration.
action arises from a Complaint filed by Plaintiff Brittany
Smiley, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated
current and former employees, which alleges violations of the
Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)
(“FLSA”). (Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff
alleges that she and other similarly situated current and
former employees were not properly compensated overtime
wages. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks collective action
status on behalf of the class. Plaintiff prays for damages to
include unpaid back wages due to Plaintiff and others who may
join the suit, costs, and attorney's fees. (Id.
American Family Care, Inc. and American Family Care of
Tennessee, LLC (“AFC”) filed a Motion to Dismiss
and Compel Arbitration in accordance with the arbitration
agreement signed by the Plaintiff on January 22, 2017
(“Agreement”), which all employees are required
to sign as a condition of their employment with AFC. (Doc.
No. 18-1 at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff electronically signed the
Agreement and could access a copy of the Agreement
thereafter. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.) The Agreement
requires all employees, including Plaintiff, to resolve
claims against AFC through arbitration. The Agreement states:
As a condition of my continued employment with American
Family Care, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as
“AFC”), AFC and Employee agree to settle any
controversy, dispute or claim arising out of or relating to
my employment with AFC or the cessation of my employment with
AFC, by final and binding arbitration administered by the
American Arbitration Association under its National Rules for
the Resolution of Employment Disputes (then in effect), and a
judgment upon the award rendered by the single arbitrator may
be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof. By way
of example only, such claims shall include, but not be
limited to, claims asserted under any federal, state, or
local statutory or common law, such as the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act (as amended), the Americans with
Disabilities Act (as amended), the Age Discrimination Act (as
amended), the Civil Rights Act (as amended), the
Rehabilitation Act (as amended), the Immigration Reform and
Control Act (as amended), the law of contract and the law of
tort. The location of the arbitration hearing shall be in
Birmingham, Alabama. AFC and Employee shall share equally all
of the administrative costs associated with the filing and
prosecution of the Arbitration. Employee understands that
he/she shall bear the expense of his/her own legal counsel,
if necessary. The arbitrator shall, however, have the power
to grant any relief available under the applicable federal or
state statute, including attorneys' fees and costs. AFC
and Employee acknowledge and understand that employment with
AFC involves and affects interstate commerce.
(Doc. No. 18-1, Ex. A.)
argues that, because the Agreement is devoid of any language
referring to class or collective action disputes, the parties
did not agree to waive their rights to collective
adjudication. (Doc. No. 22 at 1-2.) Moreover, Plaintiff
argues that the Agreement is an unconscionable contract of
adhesion and that Plaintiff did not knowingly and voluntarily
waive her rights to pursue a jury trial when she signed the
Agreement. (Id. at 3-8.)
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) states that
arbitration agreements “shall be valid, irrevocable,
and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or
inequity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C.
§ 2 (2018). When asked to compel arbitration, a federal
court must determine: whether the parties agreed to
arbitrate; the scope of the arbitration agreement; whether
Congress intended those claims to be nonarbitrable; and if
some claims are nonarbitrable, whether to stay the remainder
of the proceedings pending arbitration. See Stout v. J.D.
Byrider, 228 F.3d 709, 214 (6th Cir. 2000).
Additionally, the party seeking to avoid arbitration must
show there is a genuine issue of material fact as to the
validity or applicability of the arbitration agreement.
See Great Earth Cos., Inc. v. Simons, 288 F.3d 878,
889 (6th Cir. 2002). The FAA creates a presumption in favor
of arbitration and “places arbitration agreements on
equal footing with all other contracts.” Buckeye
Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 443
(2006); Morrison v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 317
F.3d 646, 652-53 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Saunders v.
Am. Intercontinental Univ., No. 3:14-1045, 2014 WL
5776172, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 5, 2014).
PLAINTIFF CANNOT AVOID AN OTHERWISE APPLICABLE
REQUIREMENT TO ARBITRATE MERELY BECAUSE THIS IS A COLLECTIVE
asserts that she is not required to arbitrate this action,
because it is a collective action. (Doc. No. 22 at 2.)
However, the Sixth Circuit has held that an arbitration
clause that does not mention class-wide arbitration requires
plaintiffs to proceed through arbitration individually.
See Huffman v. Hilltop Cos., 747 F.3d 391, 398-99
(6th Cir. 2014); see also Reed Elsevier Inc. ex rel
LexisNexis Div. v. Crockett, 734 F.3d 594, 596 (6th Cir.
2013). In Huffman, the plaintiffs attempted to bring
a collective action under the FLSA against their employer.
See 747 F.3d at 394. The employees signed an
arbitration agreement that did not mention class or
collective actions. See id. at 388-89. The court
held that the arbitration clause did not authorize a class or
collective action, so the plaintiffs had to proceed
Plaintiff cannot avoid an otherwise applicable requirement
simply because the Agreement does not expressly mention class
or collective actions. As in Huffman, Plaintiff
alleges an FLSA violation and attempts to bring a collective
action, while the Agreement is silent on Plaintiff's
ability to do so. Id. Therefore, ...