Court Applies "Summary-Judgment-Like" Approach To Uncontested Motions To Compel Arbitration And Stay Litigation

Carlton Fields
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Carlton Fields

The court considered a restaurant franchisee’s motion to compel arbitration, and motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, stay an employee’s race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit pending the completion of arbitration. The plaintiff had applied for a managerial position through an online portal, which included a provision agreeing to sign an arbitration agreement and ADR plan as a condition of employment. The plaintiff ultimately signed an offer letter for the position, which contained an arbitration provision, and completed onboarding paperwork online, including checking boxes that confirmed that the plaintiff had read and agreed to the company’s ADR plan and agreement to arbitrate.

In connection with the franchisee’s motion to compel arbitration, the plaintiff conceded that she signed the arbitration agreement and did not oppose the request to stay the case. She opposed only the dismissal of the case. Nevertheless, the court explained that a motion to compel arbitration is “summary-judgment-like,” meaning that the court was required to provide a cursory analysis “to ensure disposition utilizing the alternative stay request is appropriate.” The court then found as a matter of law that the plaintiff and the franchisee entered into an arbitration agreement that covered the discrimination claims, and granted the motion to compel arbitration. The court further found that it was required to grant a stay as opposed to dismissal of the case under the FAA.

Heads v. Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, Case No. 1:20-cv-00284 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 7, 2020).

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