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Winters v. AT&T Mobility Services, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

July 10, 2017

LAYNE WINTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
AT&T MOBILITY SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SARA DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant AT&T Mobility Services, LLC's (“AT&T”) motion to compel arbitration, ECF No. 7; and its motion for leave to file a reply to Plaintiff's response thereto, ECF No. 12. For the following reasons, the motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED, and the motion for leave to file is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 13, 2017, Plaintiff Layne Winters filed a complaint in Illinois circuit court alleging that she had been wrongfully disciplined and terminated from her job as an assistant store manager at an AT&T store in Moline, Illinois. Compl. 2-3, Not. Removal Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1. She alleged (I) discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, Compl. 3-4; (II) discrimination on the basis of gender under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 ILCS 5/2-101-5/2-106, Compl. 4-5; (III) discrimination on the basis of a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12117, Compl. 5-6; (IV) discrimination on the basis of a disability in violation of the IHRA, Compl. 6; (V), (VI) retaliation under Title VII and the IHRA respectively, Compl. 6-7; and (VII) interference with exercise of rights guaranteed by the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654, Compl. 8-9. AT&T timely removed the action to this Court on February 14, 2017, under the Court's federal-question and removal jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1446. On March 23, 2017, AT&T filed the motion to compel arbitration.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard on a Motion to Compel Arbitration

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-307, governs federal courts' treatment of litigants' arbitration agreements, and reads, as relevant here:

If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration.

9 U.S.C. § 3. “The FAA is Congress's manifestation of a national policy favoring arbitration and results in the placement of arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts.” Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Watts Indus., Inc., 466 F.3d 577, 580 (7th Cir. 2006); see AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011). “Whether or not [a] company [is] bound to arbitrate, as well as what issues it must arbitrate, is a matter to be determined by the court on the basis of the contract entered into by the parties.” AT & T Tech., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 649 (1986). “Under the [FAA], arbitration may be compelled if the following three elements are shown: a written agreement to arbitrate, a dispute within the scope of the arbitration agreement, and a refusal to arbitrate.” Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Watts Indus., 417 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2005).

         The FAA does not mandate an evidentiary burden that a party seeking to compel or avoid arbitration must meet, but “courts have analogized the standard to that required of a party opposing summary judgment under Rule 56 . . . . [in that] ‘the opposing party must demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact warranting a trial exists.'” Taylor v. Tree, No. 3:16-CV-2-TLS, 2016 WL 6523442, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 3, 2016) (quoting Tinder v. Pinkerton Sec., 305 F.3d 728, 735 (7th Cir. 2002)). “Just as in summary judgment proceedings, a party cannot avoid compelled arbitration by generally denying the facts upon which the right to arbitration rests; the party must identify specific evidence in the record demonstrating a material factual dispute for trial.” Tinder, 305 F.3d at 735.

         II. Discussion

         Citing a long line of similar cases in which district courts have granted its motions to compel arbitration, Mem. Supp. Mot. Arb. 1-2, ECF No. 8, AT&T argues that this case is no different: Winters received a link to a boilerplate contract of adhesion from AT&T in her work email account, and, after viewing the agreement, did not “opt out” of the agreement in the time the document granted its adherents to do so, id. at 3-4. The contract was enforceable; it should be enforced; it demands that Winters's claims be arbitrated, and her case here stayed. Id. at 6- 11. For her part, Winters claims that she never received the contract by email, Resp. 4, ECF No. 11, and contests the sufficiency of AT&T's proffered evidence to the contrary, id. at 4.

         As elsewhere, so here-AT&T must prevail, and the case must be stayed pending arbitration. The reasons lie in a straightforward application of the law of contracts.

         The contract in question does not state what law governs. Illinois choice of law rules, which this court applies since it sits in the Central District of Illinois, dictate that under such circumstances, Illinois contract law applies. See Midwest Grain Prods. of Ill., Inc. v. Productization, Inc. & Cmi Corp., 228 F.3d 784, 787 (7th Cir. 2000) (federal district court applies the choice of law rule for the state in which it sits); McIntosh v. Magna Sys., Inc., 539 F.Supp. 1185, 1188 (N.D. Ill. 1982) (general rule in Illinois is that the law of the place of a contract's execution governs the ...


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