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Cabezuela v. Western Refining GP, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 23, 2019



          Martha Vazquez United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Western Refining GP, LLC's Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings [Doc. 4]. The Court, having considered the motions, briefs, and relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, finds that the motion is well-taken and will be granted.


         Plaintiff Eric Cabezuela began working for Western Refining GP, LLC ("Western") as a truck driver on November 10, 2016. Doc. 102 ¶ 5. At some point, Western presented Mr. Cabezuela with a "Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims" ("Arbitration Agreement"), notifying him in an undated letter that while he did "not have to sign this document," if he did "not sign it," he would "not work for Western." Doc. 4 Ex. A-2. The letter advised that Mr. Cabezuela would be "asked to sign this agreement on [his] first day of employment." Id.

         On his first day of employment, November 10, 2016, Mr. Cabezuela signed the Arbitration Agreement. Doc. 4 Ex. A-l. The Arbitration Agreement contains an "Agreement to Arbitrate" provision, which states in relevant part:

[T]he Company and the Employee hereby consent to the resolution by arbitration of any and all claims or controversies for which a court otherwise would be authorized by law to grant relief in any way arising out of, relating to or associated with the Employee's employment with the Company, or its termination ("Claims"), that the Company may have against the Employee or that the Employee may have against the Company or against its officers, directors, employees or agents in their capacity as such or otherwise. The Claims covered by this Agreement include, but are not limited to, claims for wages or other compensation due; claims for breach of any contract or covenant, express or implied; tort claims; claims for discrimination, including but not limited to discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, marital status, handicap, disability or medical condition; claims for benefits ...; and claims for violation of any federal, state, or other governmental constitution, statute, ordinance or regulation (as originally enacted or amended)...

Doc. 4 Ex. A-2. The Arbitration Agreement also contains a "Construction and Enforceability" provision, which states:

Any issue or dispute concerning the formation, applicability, interpretation, or enforceability of this Agreement, including any claim or contention that all or any part of this Agreement is void or voidable, shall be subject to arbitration as provided herein. The arbitrator, and not any federal, state or local court or agency, shall have authority to decide any such issue or dispute.


         Western terminated Mr. Cabezuela's employment on September 2, 2017. Doc. 1-2 ¶ 25. As a result of his termination, on October 12, 2018, Mr. Cabezuela commenced the instant action in New Mexico state court, alleging a violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act (Count I), a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Count II), and wrongful discharge (Count III). Doc. 1-2. Thereafter, on April 10, 2019, Western removed the action to this Court. Doc. 1.

         On the instant motion, Western asks the Court to compel Mr. Cabezuela to arbitrate his claims against it and to stay this action pending arbitration of Mr. Cabezuela's claims. Plaintiff opposes the motion.


         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 may apply to a federal court for a stay of the trial in an action 'upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration." 9 U.S.C. § 3. 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 ...

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