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Price v. Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 22, 2019

ERIKA PRICE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMCAST CABLE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT, LLC; LUZ MARTINEZ; LYDIA GONZALEZ; CHRIS STEVENSON; PAMELA SALAS-MENDEZ; ALVARO ESPINOZA; and ROSE DURAN, Defendants.

          Attorney for Plaintiff: Michael E. Mozes

          Attorney for Defendants: Jennifer G. Anderson

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VÁZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Judicial Proceedings [Doc. 5]. 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

         On March 12, 2016, Plaintiff signed an offer letter accepting a position with Defendant Comcast. Doc. 5-1 at 8-10. The letter explained that “Comcast has a dispute resolution program for its employees, known as Comcast Solutions, which provides a three-step process (facilitation, mediation, and binding arbitration) for resolving a variety of workplace legal issues should there be any that arise between [Plaintiff] and the Company during or after [Plaintiff's] employment.” Id. at 9. The letter further explained that “[b]y accepting this offer of employment with the Company and signing below, [Plaintiff] acknowledges that [she] understand[s] the terms of the Comcast Solutions program and also acknowledge[s] that both [she] and the Company agree to participate in and be bound by the terms of the Comcast Solutions program.” Id.

         On October 22, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, New Mexico Human Rights Act, Breach of Implied Contract of Employment, Civil Conspiracy, and Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Doc. 1. On February 7, 2019, Defendants filed the subject motion requesting that the Court compel Plaintiff to arbitrate her claims, award Defendants attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in bringing the motion, and stay the case pending resolution of the motion. Doc. 5.

         Plaintiff, in her Response, states that “[she] has no argument that pursuant to the arbitration procedures set forth by [Defendants], the specific agreement to arbitrate in this matter would be subject to the Federal Arbitration Act” and that “[she] does not even oppose [Defendants'] argument that [her] claims would be otherwise arbitrable in different factual circumstances.” Doc. 10 at 4-5. Plaintiff argues instead that “[Defendants] waived adherence to and reliance upon mandatory arbitration through its prior conduct in this matter.” Id. at 1. The only issues in contention, therefore, are whether Defendants waived their right to arbitration, whether awarding Defendants attorneys' fees and expenses is warranted, and whether a stay is appropriate.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Defendants did not Waive their Right to Arbitration.

         The Federal Arbitration Act provides that 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. “[A]ny doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration, whether the problem at hand is the construction of the contract language itself or an allegation of waiver, delay, or a like defense to arbitrability.” BOSC, Inc. v. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Cty. of Bernalillo, 853 F.3d 1165, 1170 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983)).

         The Tenth Circuit has explained that there is “no set rule as to what constitutes a waiver or abandonment of the arbitration agreement; the question depends upon the facts of each case.” Id. (quoting Reid Burton Constr., Inc. v. Carpenters Dist. Council of S. Colo., 614 F.2d 698, 702 (10th Cir. 1980)). Several factors, however, are useful in analyzing waiver:

(1) whether the party's actions are inconsistent with the right to arbitrate; (2) whether “the litigation machinery has been substantially invoked” and the parties “were well into preparation of a lawsuit” before the party notified the opposing party of an intent to arbitrate; (3) whether a party either requested arbitration enforcement close to the trial date or delayed for a long period before seeking a stay; (4) whether a defendant seeking arbitration filed a counterclaim without asking for a stay of the proceedings; (5) “whether important intervening steps [e.g., taking advantage of judicial discovery procedures not available in arbitration] had taken place”; and (6) whether the delay “affected, misled, or prejudiced” the opposing party.

Id. (quoting Peterson v. Shearson/Amex, Inc., 849 F.2d 464, 467-68 (10th Cir. 1988)) (brackets in original). These factors are not to be applied mechanically but rather “reflect principles that should guide courts in determining whether it is appropriate to deem that a party has waived its right to demand arbitration.” Id. (quoting Hill v. Ricoh Am. Corp., 603 F.3d 766, 773 (10th Cir. 2010)). “A party asserting a waiver of arbitration has a heavy burden of proof.” Peterson, ...


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