United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
E'LISE Z. HENSLEY, TWANA S. MITCHELL, and NIKKEA S. WILSON, Plaintiffs,
S.G.T., INC., et al., Defendants.
RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.
This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Compel Arbitration [6, 14]. After reviewing the record and conducting an evidentiary hearing, see 9 U.S.C. § 4, the Court enters the following Order.
Plaintiffs brought this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., to recover unpaid minimum and overtime wages. Defendants include the owners and managers of the nightclub Pleasers. Plaintiff E'lise Z. Henlsey worked as a dancer at Pleasers from approximately June 2011 until August 2014, when the club burned down. Plaintiff Twana S. Mitchell was also a dancer from about November 2009 until August 2014. Plaintiff Nikkea S. Wilson worked as a bartender at Pleasers from March 2011 until August 2014.
Defendants seek to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement they say Plaintiffs agreed to by either signing or continuing to work once Plaintiffs were advised of the new arbitration policy. Plaintiffs deny that they entered into a valid arbitration agreement.
The Court finds that in February 2014, Defendants sought to implement a new arbitration policy for its dancers that required the dancers and Pleasers to submit covered claims (including FLSA claims) to arbitration on an individual basis. (See Dkt. [6-1] at 6.) On February 14, 2014, manager Jason Dorsey called Mitchell into his office to meet with her about the arbitration policy. Nobody else was in the office. Mitchell stated that the meeting lasted just a few seconds, while Dorsey testified that he met with each dancer for three to six minutes. In any event, the meeting was brief. Dorsey told Mitchell to sign a piece of paper that was on the edge of his desk. The single page was the last of a three-page arbitration agreement. The final page contained the following paragraphs in bold caps:
AS TO ENTERTAINERS OR OTHER INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS OF PLEASERS: THE SUBMISSION OF AN APPLICATION, AUDITION AS AN ENTERTAINER, ACCEPTANCE AS AN ENTERTAINER OR THE CONTINUATION BY YOU AS AN ENTERTAINER SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE ACCEPTANCE OF THIS AGREEMENT. NO SIGNATURE SHALL BE REQUIRED FOR THE AGREEMENT TO BE APPLICABLE. THE MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS SET FORTH IN THIS AGREEMENT SHALL CONSTITUTE A CONTRACT BETWEEN YOU AND PLEASERS BUT SHALL NOT CHANGE YOUR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP TERMINABLE AT WILL BY EITHER PARTY WITH OR WITHOUT NOTICE TO THE OTHER PARTY, OR ANY TERM OF ANY OTHER CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT BETWEEN PLEASERS AND YOU. THIS AGREEMENT SHALL CONSTITUTE THE ENTIRE AGREEMENT BETWEEN YOU AND PLEASERS FOR THE RESOLUTION OF COVERED CLAIMS.
I ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF THIS ARBITRATION POLICY AND AGREEMENT-ENTERTAINERS.
(Dkt. [6-1] at 8.)
Dorsey told Mitchell she was required to sign it but did not tell her if there were any consequences of refusing to sign. However, Mitchell testified that she heard a piece of paper was circulating and that the dancers needed to sign it or they would be "let go." She signed the paper, conceding she did not read the contents and did not care what they said. She did not receive a copy to take with her.
Hensley never met with Dorsey. She testified that she was approached in the changing room by a bartender known as Star, another Plaintiff in this action whose legal name is Nikkea S. Wilson. Wilson told Hensley that she needed to sign a document or would get in trouble. Hensley refused and was not told what the document was, although she believes it was the arbitration agreement. Wilson later testified that the document was not an arbitration policy at all but was an employee handbook. While Dorsey testified that he met with Hensley about the arbitration policy, he acknowledged that Hensley did not sign the agreement and that he told her she was not required to sign it. There is no evidence Hensley read the document. So, even if Hensley and Dorsey actually met, the Court finds that Hensley never signed the arbitration agreement, did not receive a copy of it, did not know its terms, and believed there were no consequences of not signing it.
By August 2014, Pleasers decided to implement an arbitration agreement applicable to all employees, including bartenders like Wilson. Wilson did not meet with Dorsey until August 21, 2014, a few of days before Pleasers burned. Wilson went back to Dorsey's office during her shift to get change for her customers. At that time, Dorsey asked her to sign a document. He told her she had to sign it or she would not have a job. When she signed, she was only given the final page and did not know what arbitration was. Before leaving Dorsey's office, Dorsey gave her two or three pages of the agreement. She returned to work the next day, which was her last before Pleasers burned down.
I. The Federal ...