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Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Bachman

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

May 23, 2019

HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC., Petitioner,
v.
JACQUELINE BACHMAN and VICTORIA VILA, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Petition to Compel Arbitration and for Related Injunctive Relief, filed September 6, 2018. (ECF No. 1). The Petition is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         On or about June 19, 2018, Respondents Jacqueline Bachman and Victoria Vila filed a Petition for Damages in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Missouri. (ECF No. 1-2). In their Petition, Respondents assert claims under Missouri common law and the Missouri Human Rights Act against Petitioner Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and an individual defendant, Larry Simms.

         On September 6, 2018, Petitioner filed a Petition to Compel Arbitration and for Related Injunctive Relief against Respondent Jacqueline Bachman in this Court. (ECF No. 1).[1] In support of its Petition, Petitioner asserts that both Respondent Bachman and Respondent Vila executed valid and enforceable Mutual Arbitration Agreements (“MAA”), containing the following relevant provisions:

Agreement to Arbitrate. Except as provided below, in this Mutual Arbitration Agreement (the “Agreement”), you and the Company[2] agree binding arbitration is the sole and exclusive means to resolve all disputes that may arise out of, or be related to, your employment with the Company and/or applications for employment with the Company. You and the Company each specifically waive and relinquish the respective right to sue each other in a court of law….
Covered Laws and Disputes. Subject to limitations set forth in Sections 3 and 8 below, this Agreement to arbitrate applies to any dispute, demand, claim, complaint, controversy, cause of action, or suit (as applicable, a “Dispute”) arising under or involving any federal, state, or local law, statute, regulation, code, ordinance, rule, common law, or public policy (as applicable, a “Law”), [3] that in any way or to any extent governs, regulates, or relates to your (i) application for employment; (ii) employment with the Company; (iii) compensation; or (iv) termination of employment with the Company[4]….
Arbitrator Selection, Rules, and Location….To the maximum extent permitted by Law and except as otherwise set forth in this Agreement, the arbitrator selected by the parties shall administer the arbitration according to the Employment Arbitration Rules (or successor rules) of the AAA [American Arbitration Association] and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 (“Offer of Judgment”)…
Arbitrator Authority. Except as otherwise provided in Section 8, you and the Company agree the arbitrator-not a court or agency-shall have exclusive authority to resolve any disputes or issues relating to the formation, interpretation, applicability, implementation, and enforceability of this Agreement….
Excluded Parties. This Agreement prohibits a party or the arbitrator from consolidating the Disputes of others into one proceeding, to the maximum extent permitted by Law. An arbitrator shall hear only individual Disputes and is prohibited from arbitrating a class, collective, representative, group, or joint action or awarding relief to a group of individuals in one proceeding, to the maximum extent permitted by Law. Any question or dispute concerning the scope or validity of this Section shall be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction and not the arbitrator. Should a court determine the prohibition on class, collective, representative, group, or joint actions in this Section is invalid for any reason, the parties hereby waive any right to arbitration of a class, collective, representative, group, or joint action and instead agree and stipulate that such Disputes will be heard only by a judge and not an arbitrator or jury….
Consideration. This Agreement is made in consideration for the acceptance by the Company of your application for employment, and if the Company hires you, in consideration for employing you and continuing to employ you, for the benefits and compensation provided by the Company to you, and for the mutual agreement to arbitrate as provided in this Agreement.

(ECF No. 1-1; see also ECF Nos. 10-1, 22-5).

         Relying on the terms of the MAA, Petitioner maintains this Court must enforce its provisions as written and compel Respondents to pursue their claims through individual arbitrations. (ECF No. 10). Specifically, Petitioner asserts (1) that the Court must allow an arbitrator to determine whether the MAA is valid and enforceable, and (2) that even if the Court declines to allow the arbitrator to determine if the MAA is valid and enforceable, it should find a valid and enforceable ...


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