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Sewell v. Waitr Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

January 13, 2020

GREGORY SEWELL
v.
WAITR HOLDINGS, INC.

          KATHLEEN KAY, MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Waitr Holdings, Inc.9');">9;s (“Waitr”) Motion to Compel Arbitration and Dismiss Complaint [Doc. No. 7]. Plaintiff Gregory Sewell (“Sewell”) filed an opposition memorandum. [Doc. No. 9');">9]. Waitr filed a reply memorandum. [Doc. No. 13].

         For the following reasons, the Motion to Compel Arbitration and Dismiss Complaint is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Waitr is a Louisiana-based technology company that operates an online food order and delivery platform that allows its patrons to use mobile or desktop applications to order food and have it delivered from participating restaurants.

         On April 13, 2017, Waitr hired Sewell as a City Manager. In connection with and in consideration for his employment, Sewell signed an offer letter. That offer letter contained the following provision:

In the event of any dispute or claim relating to or arising out of our employment relationship, you and the Company agree that (i) any and all disputes between you and the Company shall be fully and finally resolved by binding arbitration, (ii) you are waiving any and all rights to a jury trial but all court remedies will be available in arbitration, (iii) all disputes shall be resolved by a neutral arbitrator who shall issue a written opinion and (iv) the arbitration shall provide for adequate discovery.

[Doc. No. 7-3, Declaration of Amy Behne (“Behne Declaration”), Exh. 2, ¶ 5 & Tab A].

         On February 27, 2018, Waitr promoted Sewell to Business Manager of Excellence. Sewell received a second offer letter regarding this position that did not include any arbitration terms. [Doc. No. 7-3, Behne Declaration, Exh. 2, ¶ 6, Tab B]. Sewell signed that letter on March 3, 2018.

         On November 16, 2018, Waiter distributed an Agreement to Arbitrate Claims. This agreement was emailed through his @waitrapp.com email address.[1] The Agreement to Arbitrate Claims was also communicated through a public group chat channel (“Discord”) and an internal messaging platform (“Slack”). [Doc. No. 9');">9, Exh. C., Affidavit of Chad Murray, ¶¶ 16 & 17]. That Agreement provides as follows:

In consideration of the at-will employment relationship between Waitr, Inc. and/or Waitr Holdings, Inc. (“Employer”) and Employee and the mutual desire of the parties to enter into this Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (“Agreement”), the parties hereby agree that any and all disputes, claims or controversies between the parties, including but not limited to any dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement, the employment relationship between the parties, or the formation or termination of the employment relationship, or which arise after the termination of the employment relationship, which are not resolved by their mutual agreement shall be resolved by final and binding arbitration by a neutral arbitrator.
. . .
The claims covered by this Agreement include, but are not limited to, claims for . . . violation of any local, state, or federal constitution, statute, law, ordinance or regulation . . . wages, overtime, premiums, gratuities, tips, service/administrative charges, or any other compensation due; penalties . . . .

[Doc. No. 7-3, Behne Declaration, Exh. 2, ¶ 7 & Tab B].

         The Agreement to Arbitrate Claims further provides:

I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO REVIEW AND ASK QUESTIONS CONCERNING THIS AGREEMENT AS A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT. I UNDERSTAND THAT I AM PERMITTED TO TAKE THIS AGREEMENT WITH ME AND REVIEW IT WITH AN ATTORNEY OF MY CHOICE IF I SO DESIRE.I FURTHER UNDERSTAND THAT BY CONTINUING TO WORK FOR COMPANY, MY CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT WILL BE CONSIDERED ACCEPTANCEOFTHEAGREEMENT, EVENWITHOUT SIGNATURE.

Id. (emphasis in original). The Agreement to Arbitrate Claims expressly applies only to disputes that otherwise would be resolved in a court of law; it does not extend to claims or matters that may be brought before an administrative agency or purport to limit the ...


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