• Eleventh Circuit Overturns District Court's Order in Waffle House Arbitration Case
  • October 6, 2017 | Authors: Eve B. Masinter; Jerry L. Stovall; Rachael M. Coe; Jacob E. Roussel; Murphy J. Foster; John T. Andrishok; Leo C. Hamilton; E. Fredrick Preis; Rachael Jeanfreau; Melissa M. Shirley; Steven B. Loeb; Sunny Mayhall West
  • Law Firm: Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. - Baton Rouge Office
  • In December 2014, William Jones applied for a job at Waffle House in Florida. He was informed that Waffle House would be running a background check on him, but he never heard back from Waffle House. He also did not receive a copy of the background check, and his application was denied. In October 2015, Jones sued Waffle House along with several data reporting companies claiming they had violated the FCRA by failing to give him a copy of his background checks and an opportunity to dispute the results. Jones also sought to lead a class of U.S. residents who had applied for or were employed with Waffle House in the preceding five years and whom Waffle House had taken adverse employment actions against based on background checks. While the class-action lawsuit was pending, Jones applied for a Waffle House in Missouri and obtained employment in February 2016. When he was hired, Jones signed an arbitration agreement that delegated "all claims and controversies, past, present, or future, arising out of any aspect of or pertaining in any way to [his] employment." The agreement also delegated gateway questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator and waiving class-action arbitration. Waffle House learned Jones was employed in Missouri and moved to compel arbitration, claiming the arbitration agreement prevented Jones from proceeding with the class action lawsuit and due to the delegation provision, any issues of arbitrability were issues for the arbitrator and not the district court to decide. The district court denied the motion, saying the arbitration agreement was an illegal communication between Waffle House's attorneys and Jones. However, on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit overturned the district court's order, stating that agreement "clearly and unmistakably" delegated issues of arbitrability to the arbitrator and rejected the plaintiff's arguments that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable, an improper interference with the district court's managerial authority over class action communications, and/or improper ex parte communication with a represented party.