Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Writ Division
STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. RENEE VAN ALST and MELVIN SHELTON, Relators,
HONORABLE KEVIN D. HARRELL, Judge, Circuit Court of Jackson County, Respondent.
Proceeding on Petition for Writ of Mandamus or Prohibition
Before: Edward R. Ardini, Jr., P.J., and Alok Ahuja and Gary
D. Witt, JJ.
Renee Van Alst and Melvin Shelton are former employees of
Rainbow USA, Inc. They sued Rainbow, and a supervisor at
Rainbow, alleging claims under the Missouri Human Rights Act
and the Minimum Wage Law. The circuit court granted the
defendants' motion to compel arbitration. Van Alst and
Shelton filed a petition for a writ of mandamus or
prohibition in this Court to challenge the order compelling
arbitration. We issued a preliminary writ, which we now make
Alst and Shelton worked at a store operated by Rainbow in
Kansas City. Pamela Thomas was a District Manager for
Rainbow. Thomas was Van Alst and Shelton's direct
supervisor from February 2013 until the termination of their
employment in October 2014.
February 16, 2016, Van Alst and Shelton filed the underlying
lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County against
Rainbow and Thomas. No. 1616-CV03568. Their petition alleged
employment discrimination on the basis of race and age in
violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act. The petition also
alleged violations of the Minimum Wage Law for failing to pay
Van Alst and Shelton for all hours worked, and for failing to
pay overtime compensation to which they were entitled.
defendants moved to compel arbitration. The motion was based
on purported arbitration agreements which are entitled
"Acknowledgement, " and which were included in
Rainbow's Employee Handbook. Van Alst and Shelton
separately signed the Acknowledgment electronically on
September 30, 2014, during the course of their ongoing
employment. The Acknowledgement provided in full:
I have read and understand the policies set forth in the
Employee Handbook. I agree to abide by the policies of the
Company as reflected in this Handbook, in the Operations
Manual, and in other published memoranda. I also understand
that my employment is at will, and that either I or the
Company may end my employment at any time and for any reason.
MANDATORY ARBITRATION OF CLAIMS: I agree that any
claim related to my employment, including wage and
compensation claims, and including claims related to the
termination of my employment, shall be resolved through
arbitration as the exclusive forum, and I hereby waive any
right to pursue such claim in court or in a trial by jury,
either as a plaintiff or a collective class member. Claims
may be brought before the American Arbitration Association,
the National Arbitration Forum, or JAMS/Endispute, at the
election of the party bringing the claim. Any appropriate
remedies available under statutory law may be awarded in
arbitration, and the decision of the arbitrator shall be
final and binding on all parties. I agree that there is no
right to participate in a representative capacity, or as a
member of any class or collective group, in any claim brought
to arbitration, and that there is no right or authority for
any claims to be arbitrated on a class action or collection
action basis, nor may claims be joined or consolidated in the
arbitration unless the individual and the Company jointly
agree in writing.
All store and field employees must electronically acknowledge
their agreement at the register.
Rainbow nor Thomas executed the Acknowledgment.
Alst and Shelton responded to the motion to compel
arbitration by arguing that the Acknowledgement was not a
valid agreement to arbitrate because it lacked mutuality, and
was not supported by adequate consideration.
circuit court granted the defendants' motion to compel
arbitration on October 31, 2016. Van Alst and Shelton filed a
petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition in this Court
on January 27, 2017, asking that we order the circuit court
to rescind its order compelling arbitration, and to instead
deny the motion. This Court ...