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Ashworth v. Five Guys Operations, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

December 22, 2016

MISTY ASHWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
FIVE GUYS OPERATIONS, LLC, and DAVID DEERFIELD Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          ROBERT C. CHAMBERS CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Five Guys Operations' and David Derifield's (collectively “Defendants”) Motion to Compel Arbitration and Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Stay This Proceeding Pending Arbitration. ECF No. 3. Plaintiff Misty Ashworth, a former employee of Five Guys in Huntington, West Virginia, brought a sexual harassment suit against Five Guys and her immediate supervisor, Derifield. Defendants assert that Ashworth executed an arbitration agreement covering claims arising from her employment with Five Guys and that the agreement committed the determination of the validity and the scope of the agreement to the arbitrator and not the courts. The Court agrees and Defendant's Motion is therefore GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Ashworth began working for Five Guys in Huntington, West Virginia in April 2015. As a condition of her employment Ashworth signed an employment agreement which contained an arbitration agreement. She also signed a separate document entitled “Arbitration Agreement” which further explained the rights and duties of the parties if a dispute related to Ashworth's employment should arise.

         The arbitration agreement contained in the document titled “Employment Agreement & Arbitration of Employee Rights” states in relevant part:

Because of the delay and expense of the court system, Five Guys and I agree to use confidential binding arbitration, instead of going to court, for any claims that arise between me and Five Guys, its related companies, and/or their current or future employees. This includes any claims concerning compensation, employment, sexual or other types of harassment or termination of employment. In any arbitration, the then prevailing rules of the American Arbitration Association (and, to the extent not inconsistent, the Federal Arbitration Act) shall apply. (emphasis added).

         The document titled “Arbitration Agreement” states in relevant part:

Employee and Company agree that if any dispute arises from Employee's application or candidacy for employment, employment and/or cessation of employment with Company, it will be submitted to final and binding arbitration. This means that a neutral arbitrator, rather than a court or jury, will decide the dispute. Except as provided below, the procedure for arbitration will be based on the rules for the resolution of employment disputes of the American Arbitration Association, and to the extent applicable the provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act . . . . (emphasis added).

         Ashworth filed suit against Five Guys and her former supervisor, Derifield, for constructive retaliatory discharge, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, quid pro quo sexual harassment, outrage, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. Defendants now move the Court to compel arbitration and either dismiss the case or stay it pending arbitration pursuant to section 3 and section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). 9 U.S.C. §§ 3, 4.

         II. Legal Standard

         Section 2 of the FAA provides:

A written provision in . . . a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract . . . 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. “The FAA thereby places arbitration agreements on equal footing with other contracts, and requires courts to enforce them according to their terms. Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 67-68 (2010) (citing Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 443 (2006); Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs. Of Leland Standford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 478 (1989)).

         Section 3 of the FAA permits a party to apply to a federal court for a stay “upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration.” 9 U.S.C. § 3. And Section 4 permits a party to petition a federal court to compel arbitration “in the manner provided for” in the arbitration agreement where the opposing party failed “to arbitrate under” that agreement. § 4. The court is required to enforce the arbitration agreement ...


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