United States District Court, D. Nevada
ANNIE D. ELLISON, Plaintiff(s),
AMERICAN HOMES 4 RENT, LP, Defendant(s).
before the court is defendant American Homes 4Rent's
(“AH4R”) motion to compel arbitration. (ECF No.
23). Plaintiff Annie Ellison filed a response (ECF No. 28),
to which AH4R replied (ECF No. 31).
before the court is AH4R's motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, stay. (ECF No. 23). Ellison filed a response
(ECF No. 28), to which AH4R replied (ECF No. 31).
instant action arises from a disagreement over the validity
of a contract between the parties to arbitrate
employment-related disputes. (ECF Nos. 23, 28). The parties
allege the following:
On April 10, 2016, Ellison submitted a signed application for
employment to AH4R. (ECF No. 23). The application included an
agreement to arbitrate “any controversy, dispute, or
claim” between an employee of AH4R and AH4R or its
affiliates/subsidiaries/etc. (ECF No. 23-3). AH4R
subsequently sent an offer letter to Ellison, which she
accepted on May 3, 2016. (ECF Nos. 23, 28). The offer letter
stated that “this letter is not intended to be a
contract and your employment is at-will” and that AH4R
“uses arbitration to settle disputes and all employees
are required to sign our arbitration agreement upon
hire.” (ECF No. 23-4).
22, 2016, Ellison electronically signed AH4R's
arbitration agreement (“2016 arbitration
agreement”) through the AH4R University program, a
computer-based training system. (ECF Nos. 23-5, 28). The 2016
arbitration agreement provides, in relevant part, that
“Employee and Company agree that any controversy or
claim arising out of or relating to Employee's employment
with Company, shall be exclusively and finally settled by
arbitration, ” and that “[t]his arbitration
provision includes (but is not limited to) all claims”
for unlawful discrimination (including race, color, religion,
sex, and national origin). (ECF Nos. 23-5). The 2016
arbitration agreement also requires any arbitration
proceedings to be held in Los Angeles, California and to be
conducted pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure
31, 2016, Ellison commenced employment with AH4R as a staff
attorney. (ECF Nos. 23, 28). In April 2017, AH4R issued a
revised arbitration agreement (“2017 arbitration
agreement”) and employee handbook. (ECF Nos. 23, 28).
The 2017 arbitration agreement mirrors its 2016 counterpart
in many regards-including the requirement that disputes
related to unlawful discrimination be arbitrated-but there
are also several revised terms. (ECF No. 23-9). Notably, the
2017 arbitration agreement's location provision was
revised to require any arbitration to be conducted “in
or near the city or town where Employee's employment
services were performed, at the Company headquarters, or at
any other location mutually agreed upon by Employee and
Company or set by the AAA or arbitrator.” Id.
employee handbook references the 2017 arbitration agreement
as follows: “At time of hire, you will be required to
sign and return an arbitration agreement as a condition of
employment.” (ECF No. 28-4). The employee handbook also
states that AH4R “reserves the right to change or
revise policies, procedures, and benefits (other than the
employment-at-will provision) without prior notice whenever
we determine that such action is warranted” and that
“[t]his handbook replaces all earlier handbooks and
supersedes all prior or inconsistent policies, practices, and
procedures.” (ECF No. 28).
order to receive a salary increase and monetary bonus,
Ellison was required to acknowledge the 2017 arbitration
agreement through the AH4R University program by January 5,
2018. (ECF No. 23, 23-6). Although Ellison disputes that she
signed the 2017 arbitration agreement (ECF No. 28), AH4R has
submitted a “course activity summary” from the
AH4R University program indicating that Ellison's unique
login was used on January 5, 2018 to acknowledge the 2017
arbitration agreement (ECF No. 23-11).
initiated this action on June 28, 2019. (ECF No. 1). On July
10, 2019, Ellison filed an amended complaint against AH4R
alleging two causes of action: (1) race discrimination in
violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and (2)
retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. (ECF No. 9).
AH4R moves to compel arbitration of Ellison's claims.
(ECF No. 23). AH4R also moves to dismiss, or in the
alternative, stay Ellison's claims pending resolution of
the arbitration. Id.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides for the
enforcement of arbitration agreements in any contract
affecting interstate commerce. 9 U.S.C. § 2;
AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333,
339 (2011). A party to an arbitration agreement can invoke
his or her rights under the FAA by petitioning federal courts
to direct that “arbitration proceed in the manner
provided for in such agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4.
When courts grant a petition to compel arbitration, the FAA
requires stay of litigation “until such arbitration has
been had[.]” Id. at § 3.
embodies a clear policy in favor of arbitration. AT&T
Mobility, 563 U.S. at 339. Courts must rigorously
enforce arbitration agreements. Hall Street Assoc.,
L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 582 (2008).
“[A]ny doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues
should be resolved in favor of arbitration.” See
Simula, Inc. v. Autoliv, Inc., 175 F.3d 716, 719 (9th
Cir. 1999) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v.
Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)). The FAA
leaves no place for courts to ...