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Fedor v. United Healthcare, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 18, 2019

DANA FEDOR, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED HEALTHCARE, INC., and UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VAZQUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Strike Class and Collective Action Claims, and Compel Arbitration, or, in the Alternative, Stay Proceedings [Doc. 16]. The Court, having considered the motion, briefs, and relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, finds that the motion is well-taken and will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Dana Fedor worked for Defendants as a “Care Coordinator” from in or about November 2013, until on or about November 25, 2016. Doc. 16-1 at ¶¶ 7-8. Opt-in Plaintiffs Susan Davis, Donah E. Davison, Juliana J. Whitesell, Cindy L. Hays, Michelle Rios Rice, Ann E. Beauchamp, William E. Snyder, and Lisa Anne Salopek also formerly worked for Defendants as Care Coordinators. Id. at ¶¶ 9-32. Consistent with Defendants' policies, along with his or her offer letter, Defendants provided Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs with a copy of Defendants' then-current arbitration policy. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30. Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs each logged onto Defendants' PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System and electronically acknowledged receipt of, and agreement to, that arbitration policy, by clicking on the “I accept” button. Id. at ¶ 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31.

         Defendants periodically revise their arbitration policy, and on January 1, 2016, while Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs were still employed with Defendants, Defendants “issued” the most recent version of their arbitration policy (the “2016 Arbitration Policy”). Id. at ¶¶ 33, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, 33. The 2016 Arbitration Policy states that it is a “binding contract between United Health Group and its employee, ” that “[a]cceptance of employment or continuation of employment with UnitedHealth Group is deemed to be acceptance of this Policy, ” and that it “supersedes any and all prior versions and has been revised effective January 1, 2016.” Doc. 16-2.

         On March 28, 2017, Plaintiff commenced the instant action by filing her First Amended Class and Collective Action Complaint to recover overtime compensation from Defendants. Doc. 3. Plaintiff brings collective claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and class action claims under New Mexico law, on behalf of herself and Opt-in Plaintiffs, who have consented to join the action. Id. at ¶¶ 34-35; Docs. 9-15. Arguing that this lawsuit violates the 2016 Arbitration Policy, which requires arbitration of the claims set forth in the Amended Complaint and which prohibits collective and class claims, Defendants filed the instant motion to compel Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs to individually arbitrate their claims. Plaintiff opposes the motion.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to arbitration provisions in “a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Under the FAA, such arbitration provisions “are valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. Section 2 of the FAA creates “a substantive rule applicable in state as well as federal courts.” Southland Corp. v. Keating, 465 U.S. 1, 16 (1984). To implement this substantive rule, “a party aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration may petition” the federal district court “for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” 9 U.S.C. § 4. Describing the FAA as “a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration, ” the Supreme Court has emphasized “the fundamental principle that arbitration is a matter of contract, ” and, accordingly, that “courts must place arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts . . . and enforce them according to their terms.” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Conception, 131 S.Ct. 1740, 1745 (2011).

         The FAA, however, “was not enacted to force parties to arbitrate in the absence of an agreement.” Avedon Eng'g, Inc. v. Seatex, 126 F.3d 1279, 1286 (10th Cir. 1997). Rather, Congress' concern “was to enforce private agreements into which parties had entered.” Id. Accordingly, “[t]he existence of an agreement to arbitrate is a threshold matter which must be established before the FAA can be invoked.” Id. at 1287.

         DISCUSSION

         Under the FAA, Defendants move to compel Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs to individually arbitrate the claims alleged in the Amended Complaint. In support of their motion, Defendants argue that the 2016 Arbitration Policy is valid and enforceable against Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs, that the claims alleged in the Amended Complaint fall within the scope of the 2016 Arbitration Policy, and that the 2016 Arbitration Policy prohibits Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs from pursuing class and collective claims. Plaintiff does not appear to dispute that her claims fall within the scope of the 2016 Arbitration Policy or that the 2016 Arbitration Policy prohibits class and collective claims. Plaintiff does, however, dispute that the 2016 Arbitration Policy is valid and enforceable as to her and Opt-in Plaintiffs.

         I. Enforceability of the 2016 Arbitration Policy as to Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs

         Plaintiff argues that the 2016 Arbitration Policy is not enforceable against her or Opt-in Plaintiffs because there is no evidence that any of them “signed, read or even knew about this Policy.” Doc. 38 at 7. Rather, Plaintiff explains, each of them indicated acceptance only to prior versions of Defendants' arbitration policy. It is those prior versions, Plaintiff argues, that are the operative documents here and, because each of those prior versions lacked valid consideration under New Mexico law, neither Plaintiff nor Opt-in Plaintiffs are bound by any valid, enforceable agreement to submit their claims to arbitration.

         Plaintiff is correct that she and Opt-in Plaintiffs electronically agreed to prior versions of Defendants' arbitration policies. Specifically, Plaintiff and Opt-in Plaintiffs Davidson, Whitesell, and Snyder agreed to Defendant's 2012 arbitration policy; Opt-in Plaintiffs Davis and Salopek agreed to Defendant's 2006 arbitration policy; Opt-in Plaintiff Beauchamp agreed to Defendant's 2011 arbitration policy; and Opt-in Plaintiffs Hays and Rice agreed to Defendants' 2015 arbitration policy. Doc. 38 at 4. The Court agrees that, ...


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