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Youll v. Estherville, IA Assisted Living Facility, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division

September 17, 2018

PATTY YOULL, Plaintiff,
v.
ESTHERVILLE, IA ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY, LLC, d/b/a WINDSOR MANOR; ESTHERVILLE STAFFING, LLC; FOSTER DEVELOPMENT, INC, d/b/a FOSTER SENIOR LIVING; SUSAN FOSTER; LYNNE POPP, Defendants.

          ORDER

          C. J. Williams United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on defendants' unresisted[1] Motion to Compel Arbitration Pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. (Doc. 2). In their motion, defendants specifically “request that this Court enter an order staying these proceedings and compelling Plaintiff to arbitrat[e] her Iowa and federal employment claims against the Defendants.” (Id., at 8). For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her amended state court petition on August 8, 2018, alleging violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Doc. 5). On August 20, 2018, defendants timely removed the case to this Court. (Doc. 1). In her state court petition, plaintiff alleges that plaintiff's employer and the employer's agents (collectively, “defendants”) discriminated against plaintiff based on her age and that plaintiff was terminated as a result of such discrimination. (Doc. 5 at 2-5).

         As part of her employment application, plaintiff signed a “Terms and Conditions of Employment” document, which contains an arbitration provision providing as follows:

I do agree that if employment dispute arises [sic] while you [sic] may be employed at Windsor Manor Assisted Living[, ] you [sic] agree to submit any such dispute arising out of your [sic] employment or the termination of your [sic] employment (including, but not limited to, claims of unlawful termination based on race, gender, age[, ] national origin, disability, breach of contract[, ] or any other bias prohibited by law) exclusively to binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C., Section 1. . . . This arbitration shall be the exclusive means of resolving any dispute arising out of your employment or termination from employment by Windsor Manor Assisted Living or you [sic], and no other action can be brought by employees in any court or any forum.

(Doc. 2-2, at 1 (emphasis in original)). The Court understands that plaintiff is willing to submit her claims to arbitration, on the condition that the instant case is stayed. (See Doc. 2, at 8).

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“the Act”) provides that “a written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2 (2017). Thus, for the Act to govern an arbitration agreement in a contract, the contract must affect interstate commerce. Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U.S. 265, 273-74, 281 (1995). Further, if a contract is otherwise revocable, the arbitration provision may not mandate arbitration within the meaning of the Act. See generally Id. (explaining that states may invalidate contracts under general contract law principles and “may invalidate an arbitration clause ‘upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract'” (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 2)).

         When a party to a contract involving an arbitration agreement falling within the scope of the Act petitions a court for enforcement of the arbitration agreement, the court must order “the parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the [arbitration] agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4. The court need only order as such if the court is satisfied that the making of the arbitration agreement or compliance with the arbitration agreement are not at issue. Id.

         This is consistent with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals' dictate that when reviewing a claim that an arbitration agreement falls within the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act, courts should consider: 1) “whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate, ” and 2) “whether the specific dispute at issue falls within the substantive scope of that agreement.” Larry's United Super, Inc. v. Werries, 253 F.3d 1083, 1085 (8th Cir. 2001). When reviewing such claims, courts should bear in mind that the Act's “provisions manifest a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 25 (1991)). Finally, when ordering the parties to arbitrate their claims under the Act, if one or more of the parties moves the Court to stay pending judicial proceedings, the Court must stay the trial until the parties have proceeded through the arbitration process. 9 U.S.C. § 3.

         III. DISCUSSION

         As plaintiff does not resist the instant motion, the issues before the Court are relatively straightforward. Defendants have brought forth evidence showing that the contract at issue does affect interstate commerce. (See Doc. 2-3). Neither party argues that the contract is otherwise revocable, and, for purposes of the instant motion, the Court will assume that it is not. The Court therefore concludes that the Act does govern the arbitration clause at issue. As set forth above, the Court must next consider whether the parties entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate, and whether the dispute at issue falls within the substantive scope of the agreement.

         A. Valid ...


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