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Ramsey v. H&R Block Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

May 13, 2019

MELISSA RAMSEY, individually and o/b/o similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
H&R BLOCK INC., et al., Defendants.

         ORDER AND OPINION (1) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION, (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE REPLY OR FOR LEAVE TO FILE SUR-REPLY, (3) DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE NOTICE REGARDING JURY TRIAL REQUEST, (4) SETTING DEADLINE FOR DEFENDANTS' ANSWER, AND (5) DIRECTING PARTIES TO MEET AND CONFER AND JOINTLY PROPOSE SCHEDULING ORDER

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SENIOR JUDGE

         Pending are Defendants' Motion to Compel Arbitration on an Individual Basis (Doc. #22), and Plaintiff's Motion to Disregard/Strike, or in the Alterative, for Leave to File Sur-Reply (Doc. #30). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is denied, and Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         From October 2010 to June 2011, Plaintiff Melissa Ramsey was a branch manager at H&R Block's Fairway, Kansas location.[2] In November 2018, Plaintiff filed this putative class action against Defendants H&R Block, Inc. and H&R Block Tax Services LLC, alleging Defendants, along with other entities and persons, “enacted a scheme related to the recruitment of employees and potential employees, which included policies and agreements not to solicit or recruit without prior approval [from] each other's personnel.” Doc. #1, ¶ 17. According to Plaintiff, the franchise agreement between Defendants and their franchisees included a restriction on competition: “During the term of this agreement, neither Franchisee nor any of Franchisee's Associates will, without H&R Block's prior written consent…[s]olicit for employment any person who is employed by H&R Block or by any other franchisee of H&R Block.” Id. ¶¶ 18, 36-40. Defendants adhered to the same agreement in company-owned stores. Id. ¶¶ 19, 41. Among other things, Plaintiff alleges the “purpose and effect of this scheme was to limit and suppress mobility and compensation for class members.” Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 66-74. Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated the Sherman Act.

         Defendants move to compel arbitration on an individual basis. Doc. #22. They argue Plaintiff, in 2017, agreed to arbitrate all claims against Defendants when she applied for a seasonal position (for which she was not hired) at H&R Block's corporate offices in Kansas City, Missouri. According to the Vice President and Secretary for H&R Block Tax Services LLC, “the mutual arbitration agreement that Plaintiff signed, ” in relevant part, included the following:

ARBITRATION AGREEMENT. HRB Tax Group, Inc., and such other H&R Block business entity for which I am applying for employment/ assignment or for which I may become employed, (collectively, “H&R Block”) and I mutually understand, contract and agree…that any and all claims and/or disputes, past, present or future, arising out of or related to my application for employment, employment, and/or the termination of my employment, shall be decided by a single arbitrator through arbitration and not by way of court or jury trial.
* * * *
[T]his Arbitration Agreement applies to any and all claims that otherwise would be resolved in a court of law or before a forum other than arbitration under applicable state, federal or other law, including without limitation, claims and/or disputes that the Company[3] may have against me or that I may have against: (1) the Company, (2) the officers, directors, employees, or agents of the Company, and (3) all successors and assigns of any of them.
* * * *
Class Action Waiver:
The Company and I agree that all arbitrations shall proceed on an individual basis. Accordingly, the Company and I agree and hereby waive any right for any dispute to be heard, decided or arbitrated as a class and/or collective action and the arbitrator will have no authority to hear or preside over any such claim…. To the extent this Class Action Waiver is determined to be invalid, unenforceable, or void, any class action must proceed in a court of law and not in arbitration.
* * * *
THE COMPANY AGREES TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS SET FORTH ABOVE. BY CLICKING “SAVE AND CONTINUE” BELOW, YOU ARE ELECTRONICALLY SIGNING THIS ARBITRATION AGREEMENT. DO NOT ELECTRONICALLY SIGN UNTIL YOU HAVE CAREFULLY READ THE ABOVE ARBITRATION AGREEMENT. BY ELECTRONICALLY SIGNING BELOW, YOU ARE AGREEING THAT YOU HAVE CAREFULLY READ THIS ARBITRATION AGREEMENT AND ARE VOLUNTARILY GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT TO A COURT OR JURY TRIAL, AND THAT YOU AND THE COMPANY ARE AGREEING TO ARBITRATE DISPUTES COVERED BY THIS ARBITRATION AGREEMENT. YOU ALSO ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOUR ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE BELOW IS BINDING LIKE A WRITTEN SIGNATURE IN INK. THIS APPLICATION CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION AGREEMENT WHICH MAY BE ENFORCED BY THE PARTIES.

Doc. #23-1 (emphasis in original); Doc. #29-1 (emphasis in original).

         Plaintiff filed her opposition to Defendants' motion to compel arbitration (Doc. #27), and Defendants filed their reply (Doc. #28). Plaintiff then moved to strike Defendants' reply, or in the alternative, allow her ...


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