Arkansas District Court Compels Arbitration of Post-Termination Wage Dispute

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Carlton Fields

Audra Patterson filed a putative class action against her former employer, American Income Life Insurance Company (AILIC), for alleged wage violations. AILIC moved to compel arbitration of her individual claims pursuant to an arbitration clause in her agency agreement. The agreement provided that all disputes shall be submitted to binding arbitration, specifically including those alleging violations of wage and hour laws. Patterson claimed the arbitration clause was nonetheless inapplicable, arguing the agency agreement was silent as to whether the arbitration clause survived termination of the agreement. The district court disagreed, finding the argument insufficient to overcome the strong presumption in favor of arbitration. Absent clear indication to the contrary, the court noted that federal arbitration law generally presumes an arbitration provision in a contract remains valid and enforceable even after the contract expires or is otherwise terminated. The court also rejected Patterson’s reliance on specific “survival” language in other contract provisions. Patterson claimed it was implicit from the language in those other provisions that the arbitration clause was not to survive upon termination of the contract. The court again disagreed, emphasizing that the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit have interpreted similar arbitration clauses as covering post-termination employment disputes. The court granted AILIC’s motion to compel accordingly.

Audra Patterson v. American Income Life Insurance Co. et al., Case No. 19-cv-00918 (E.D. Ark. Oct. 30, 2020).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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