United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
ANGEL WILSON, on behalf of herself, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
59th St. LD OKLAHOMA CITY, LLC d/b/a LITTLE DARLINGS, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON ARBITRATION
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Complaint Plaintiff asserts that she was employed by
Defendant as an exotic dancer. According to Plaintiff, during
her employment with Defendant, she was not paid as required
by the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201,
et seq. (“FLSA”). Plaintiff brought this
action seeking class action certification to recover unpaid
wages. Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss or Stay in
Favor of Arbitration. In its Motion, Defendant argues that
Plaintiff worked as an independent professional entertainer.
Defendant asserts that prior to beginning her relationship
with Defendant, Plaintiff signed a contract which contained
an arbitration clause. Thus, Defendant argues, the Court
should stay this case and direct the parties to complete the
Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et
seq. (“FAA”), allows “[a] party
aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of
another to arbitrate under a written agreement for
arbitration [to] petition any United States district court .
. . for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in
the manner provided for in such agreement.” 9 U.S.C.
§ 4. The FAA requires the Court to “compel
arbitration pursuant to the terms of the parties'
agreement if (1) a valid, enforceable arbitration agreement
exists, and (2) the asserted claims are within the scope of
that agreement.” Edwards v. Blockbuster Inc.,
400 F.Supp.2d 1305, 1309 (E.D. Okla. 2005); see also
9 U.S.C. § 4 (“The court shall hear the parties,
and upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for
arbitration or the failure to comply therewith is not in
issue, the court shall make an order directing the parties to
proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the
agreement.”). If these two elements are satisfied, the
Court has no discretion and must direct the parties to
proceed to arbitration. See KPMG LLP v. Cocchi, 565
U.S. 18, 22 (2011) (citing Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v.
Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985)). The FAA “creates
a ‘presumption in favor of arbitrability and courts
must resolve all doubts' in favor of arbitration.”
Edwards, 400 F.Supp.2d at 1309 (citing Shankle
v. B-G Maint. Mgmt. of Colo., 163 F.3d 1230, 1233 (10th
Cir. 1999)); see also KPMG LLP, 565 U.S. at 21
(quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler
Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 631 (1985))
(“The Federal Arbitration Act reflects an
‘emphatic federal policy in favor of arbitral dispute
resolution.'”). “The party seeking to avoid
arbitration bears the burden of proving that the claims are
not covered, and only the most forceful evidence of a purpose
to exclude a claim from arbitration can prevail.”
Edwards, 400 F.Supp.2d at 1310.
argues 1) that arbitration is improper, as there is no proof
of an agreement to arbitrate; 2) the arbitration clause
unfairly favors Defendant because of the costs Plaintiff
would have to pay to arbitrate; and/or 3) the arbitration
clause should not be enforced because it denies Plaintiff
certain statutory rights.
first argument addresses the Court's first duty in
deciding whether to compel arbitration - is there a valid
agreement to arbitrate. In support, Defendant has submitted a
document purportedly signed by Plaintiff which contains the
operative arbitration clause. Plaintiff does not dispute that
the document contains her signature. Rather, Plaintiff argues
that there is no proof that the document reflects an
agreement with the club where she worked. Plaintiff asserts
that the document nowhere contains the name “Little
Darlings, ” which is the name of the club where she
danced. Thus, Plaintiff argues, there is no proof of an
agreement between her and that entity.
argument borders on the frivolous. The document provided by
Defendant evinces an agreement between Plaintiff and
Defendant 59th St. LD Oklahoma City, LLC (59th St”). In
her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that 59th St. was her
employer and that it does business as Little Darlings.
(See Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff will
not now be heard to argue otherwise.
also argues that the arbitration clause is unenforceable
because it was obtained in an unconscionable manner. However,
when her arguments are examined closely, it is clear her
unconscionability arguments attack the entire contract. Thus,
those arguments are to be resolved by the arbitrator. See
Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440,
445-46 (2006) (“unless the challenge is to the
arbitration clause itself, the issue of the contract's
validity is considered by the arbitrator in the first
instance.”). Accordingly, the Court finds there is an
agreement to arbitrate.
the claims brought by Plaintiff are within the scope of that
agreement is an issue for the arbitrator. This is the case
whether, as Plaintiff argues, the clause is unconscionable or
if it takes away certain statutory rights.
arbitration clause states:
EXCEPT FOR ANY ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS THAT ARE NOT
LEGALLY BARRED BY THIS PARAGRAPH, ANY CONTROVERSY, DISPUTE,
OR CLAIM (IN THIS PARAGRAPH 21, COLLECTIVELY
“CLAIM”) ARISING OUT OF THIS LEASE OR OUT OF
ENTERTAINER PERFORMING AND/OR WORKING AT THE CLUB AT ANY
TIME, WHETHER CONTRACTUAL, IN TORT, OR BASED UPON COMMON LAW
OR STATUTE, SHALL BE EXCLUSIVELY DECIDED BY BINDING
ARBITRATION HELD PURSUANT TO THE FEDERAL ARBITRATION ACT (THE
“FAA”). SUCH ARBITRATION SHALL OCCUR IN THE STATE
OF OKLAHOMA, AND SHALL BE ADMINISTERED BY A NEUTRAL
ARBITRATOR AGREED UPON BY THE PARTIES, WHO SHALL BE PERMITTED
TO AWARD, SUBJECT ONLY TO THE RESTRICTIONS CONTAINED IN THIS
PARAGRAPH 21, ANY RELIEF AVAILABLE IN A COURT. . . . THE
ARBITRATOR SHALL HAVE EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY TO RESOLVE ANY
DISPUTES OVER THE VALIDITY AND/OR ENFORCEABILITY OF ANY PART
OF THIS LEASE, INCLUDING THESE ARBITRATION PROVISIONS.
(Dkt. No. 16-2, ¶21).
See AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of
Am., 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986) (stating that parties may
agree to arbitrate arbitrability). The Supreme Court has held
that when parties agree that an arbitrator should decide
arbitrability, they delegate to an arbitrator all threshold
questions concerning arbitrability - including "whether
their agreement covers a particular controversy."
Rent-A-Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63,
that the Court has found that Plaintiffs claims must be
submitted to arbitration, the question is dismissal or stay.
The FAA states that the Court "upon being satisfied that
the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to
arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of
one of the parties stay the trial of the action
until such arbitration has been had." 9 U.S.C. § 3
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Stay in Favor of
Arbitration (Dkt. No. 16) is GRANTED. The Court orders the
parties to arbitrate Plaintiffs claims in accordance with the
terms set out in the Dancer Performance Lease. This matter
shall be administratively closed pending the ...