United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
IAN NORRED, Individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated under 29 U.S.C § 216b, Plaintiffs,
COTTON PATCH CAFÉ, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
FISH, Senior United States District Judge.
the court is the motion of the defendant, Cotton Patch
Café, LLC, to compel arbitration and to stay this case
pending arbitration, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act
(“FAA”). For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is granted.
lead plaintiff in this action, Ian Norred, filed suit against
his employer, Cotton Patch Café, LLC (“Cotton
Patch”) on April 26, 2019, alleging violations of the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Complaint
(“Complaint”) (docket entry 1) at 1. On June 4,
2019, another former Cotton Patch employee, Rain Bennett,
joined Norred as a named plaintiff. Notice of Consent to
Become a Party Plaintiff (“Notice of Consent”)
(docket entry 9).
defendant operates a chain of Cotton Patch Café
restaurants. Complaint at 4. Norred worked as a server at one
of these restaurants from December, 2017 until April, 2019.
Appendix in Support of Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition
to Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay
(“Response Appendix”) (docket entry 14) at 1.
Bennett worked as a server at a Cotton Patch restaurant from
June of 2018 until March or April of 2019. Appendix to Motion
to Compel Arbitration and Stay Court Proceedings
(“Motion Appendix”) (docket entry 11) at 4-5;
Response Appendix at 3.
December 27 or 28, 2017, Norred underwent Cotton Patch's
onboarding process for new hires. See Appendix to
Defendant's Reply in Support of its Motion to Compel
Arbitration and Stay Court Proceedings (“Reply
Appendix”) (docket entry 16) at 1-2 (describing Cotton
Patch's onboarding process); id. at 5-6 (showing
document that Norred signed during onboarding dated
12/28/2017). The process required Norred to fill out various
forms on a computer. Id. at 1. During his
onboarding, Norred electronically signed a document titled
“Notice to Employees.” Motion Appendix at 2;
Reply Appendix at 5-6. The notice to employees contains a
section titled “Arbitration Acknowledgment, Safety
Pledge and Receipt, ” and another titled
“Agreement to Arbitrate.” Reply Appendix at 5.
Bennett also underwent the onboarding process and
electronically signed the notice to employees on her first
day of employment at Cotton Patch. Motion Appendix at 4.
agreement to arbitrate section of the notice to employees
reads as follows:
• I agree to use binding arbitration, instead of going
to court, for any claims, including any claims now in
existence or that may exist in the future (a) that I may have
against [Cotton Patch], its affiliates, and/or their current
or former employees or (b) that [Cotton Patch] and/or its
affiliates may have against me. Without limitation, such
claims include any concerning wages. Expense reimbursement,
compensation, leave, employment (including, but not limited
to, any claims concerning harassment, discrimination, or
retaliation), conversion, breach of fiduciary duty,
negligence, employment-related tort claims, and/or
termination of employment.
• I am waiving my right to a jury trial and any right I
may have to bring any employment-related claim covered by
this agreement as a Class Action (as defined in full document
see hyperlink above) or any class or representative action
(either in court or in arbitration) or to participate in such
By signing below I agree that I have read and understand the
above information, and I have been given an opportunity to
discuss and ask questions. I have received a copy of the
arbitration agreements and agree to be bound by the terms and
Reply Appendix at 5-6.
hyperlink referenced in the agreement to arbitrate section
appears at the top of the notice to employees in underlined
text that reads “View Agreement.”
Id. at 5. When clicked on, the hyperlink opens a
document in a new internet window with the headings
“Arbitration Agreement, ” and “Mutual
Agreement to Arbitrate” printed at the top of the page.
Reply Appendix at 3; id. at 8 (“the
arbitration agreement”). The arbitration agreement
states, in pertinent part, that “[t]his [a]greement is
mutual, covering all claims that [Cotton Patch] or [c]laimant
may have which arise from: Any injury suffered by [c]laimant
while in the scope and course of [c]laimant's employment
with [Cotton Patch], . . . and any other loss, detriment or
claim of whatever kind and character.” Id. at
9. The arbitration agreement also states that the effective
date of the agreement is August 1, 2014. Id. at 8.
Finally, the arbitration agreement grants Cotton Patch
“the right to prospectively terminate th[e]
[a]greement, ” but qualifies this right by stating that
“[t]ermination is not effective for [c]overed [c]laims
which accrued or occurred prior to the date of termination,
” and that “[t]ermination is also not effective
until ten (10) days after reasonable notice is given to
[c]laimant.” Id. at 12.
“arbitration acknowledgment, safety pledge and
receipt” section of the notice to employees states:
“By my signature below, I acknowledge that I have
received and read (or had the opportunity to read) the . . .
[a]rbitration [a]greement, effective August 1, 2014.”
Id. at 5. Despite this language in the notice to
employees, Norred and Bennett maintain that prior to the
filing of this lawsuit, they had not seen the arbitration
agreement. Response Appendix at 2, 3.
was seventeen years old when he signed the notice to
employees and began working for Cotton Patch in December of
2017. See Id. at 1. Norred turned eighteen on July
9, 2018, id., and stopped working at Cotton Patch on
April 30, 2019. Motion Appendix at 4. Norred filed the
complaint in this action on April 26, 2019, alleging that
Cotton Patch has failed to adequately compensate him and
other similarly situated employees, in violation of the FLSA.
See Complaint (docket entry 1). Bennett filed her
notice of consent on June 4, 2019, see Notice of
Consent, and Cotton Patch filed the instant motion to compel
arbitration on June 7, 2019, Motion to Compel Arbitration and
Stay Court Proceedings (“Motion”) (docket entry
10). Norred filed his response to the motion on June 28,
2019, Response (docket entry 13), and Cotton Patch filed its
reply on July 12, 2019, Defendant's Reply in Support of
its Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Court Proceedings
(“Reply”) (docket entry 15).
motion, Cotton Patch asserts that the plaintiffs' FLSA
claim is subject to the terms of the notice to employees and
the arbitration agreement, and that, in consequence, the
court should stay proceedings in this case and order the
plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims, or, in the alternative,
that the court should dismiss this action with prejudice.
Motion at 1. The matter being fully briefed, Cotton
Patch's motion is now ripe for decision by the court.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to any
written provision in a contract “evidencing a
transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a
controversy thereafter arising out of such contract. . .
.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. The Supreme Court has held that
“involving” should be read expansively to apply
to any transaction affecting interstate commerce.
Allied-Bruce Terminix Companies, Inc. v. Dobson, 513
U.S. 265, 273-74 (1995). In this case, the parties agree that
this matter implicates interstate commerce, as the