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Wallace v. Communications Unlimited, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 1, 2019

MICHAEL WALLACE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COMMUNICATIONS UNLIMITED, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Compel Individual Arbitrations and Stay Litigation filed by Defendants Communications Unlimited, Inc.; C.U. Employment, Inc.; Communications Unlimited of the South, Inc.; Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc.; Communications Unlimited Marketing Services, Inc.; Broadband Infrastructure & Connection, LLC; Communications Unlimited, LLC; and Does 1 through 50, inclusive. (Doc. 16.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims are subject to a binding arbitration agreement that delegates to the arbitrator even challenges to the agreement's validity. (Doc. 17.) Plaintiffs Michael Wallace, Christian Johnson, and Jefferey Super, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, respond that the Court should find that the arbitration agreement is unenforceable and allow the suit to proceed. (Doc. 26.) The motion is fully briefed and ripe for ruling. (See Doc. 28.)

         Background

         Plaintiffs are former “Wire Technicians” employed by Defendants to install and service “modems, routers and wireless networks in residential and commercial environments.” (Doc. 1 at 2.) They advance claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Missouri Minimum Wage Law, and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, alleging that “Defendants systemically and uniformly failed to pay [Wire Technicians] all wages owed including overtime wages” and that “Defendants had a policy, practice and procedure of breaking the compensation agreement with [Wire Technicians]” by failing to pay all monetary sums owed at the agreed rate, failing to follow the bonus program, and failing to properly calculate overtime wages. (Id. at 1-3.) Plaintiffs seek to represent “all current and/or former employees of Communications Unlimited who hold or have held non-exempt positions during the relevant time period.” (Id. at 3.)

         Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are bound by a Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (the “Agreement”) that requires them to seek relief through individual arbitration. (Docs. 17, 17-1.) In relevant part, the Agreement states:

Claims Covered by the Agreement
[Communications Unlimited (“CU”)] and I mutually agree to resolve by arbitration all claims or controversies (“claim” or “claims”), past, present or future[.]
This Agreement covers any and all disputes that arise between CU and me with the exception of claims that are expressly excluded from arbitration elsewhere in the Agreement. Examples of the kinds of claims that are covered by this Agreement include, but are not limited to:
• claims for breach of any contract (express or implied);
• claims for wages, salary, benefits, or other compensation due, claims for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act . . . or any state law relating to the payment of wages and/or hours[.]
Additionally, the parties expressly agree and acknowledge that they are required by this Agreement to participate in bilateral arbitration that exclusively involves CU and I and that arbitration pursuant to the Agreement will not be conducted as a class action, collective action, or joint or consolidated action involving parties other than CU and I.
Claims not Covered by the Agreement
Claims excluded from the Agreement are the following:
Claims by me for workers' compensation benefits . . . or unemployment benefits;
Claims for benefits under a company benefit or pension plan[;]
Claims involving patents or inventions;
Claims for exclusively injunctive and/or equitable relief, which do not seek monetary damages of any kind[.]
Arbitration Procedures
[T]he Arbitrator, and not any federal, state, or local court or agency, shall have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, enforceability, or formation of this Agreement, including but not limited to any ...

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