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Shane D. Hutchins, An Individual v. Directv Customer Service

April 6, 2012

SHANE D. HUTCHINS, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DIRECTV CUSTOMER SERVICE, INC., AND JOHN/JANE DOES I THROUGH X, WHOSE TRUE IDENTITIES ARE PRESENTLY UNKNOWN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald E. Bush U. S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Currently pending before the Court is Defendant DIRECTV Customer Service, Inc.'s Motion to Compel Binding Arbitration and Stay Proceedings (Dkt. 17), filed November 10, 2011.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Shane D. Hutchins ("Plaintiff" or "Hutchins") filed a Complaint against DIRECTV on September 9, 2011 alleging that his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") were violated during his employment and then subsequent termination. On October 24, 2011, Plaintiff amended his complaint to bring suit against DIRECTV Customer Service, Inc., ("DIRECTV" or "Defendant").

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On September 15, 2004, Hutchins submitted an application for Customer Service Manager at what is now known as the Boise Customer Care Center ("BCCC"). (Decker Aff., ¶ 11, Ex. B, Dkt. 17). The application contained a Pre-Employment Statement located above his signature on page 3 which stated, in pertinent part: "I understand that if I am employed by the company, I shall be required to sign an arbitration agreement, which requires final and binding arbitration of any and all claims I may have against the company." (Id.) On or around October 7, 2004, DIRECTV extended a contingent offer of employment to Plaintiff for the position of Customer Care Manager. (Id. ¶ 12, Ex. C.) This Contingent Offer contained a statement that employment was contingent upon, among other things, "signing a binding arbitration agreement." (Id.) The offer also stated that where applicable, the offer of employment was also contingent upon "successful completion of a new-hire Customer Service Representative training program which includes a three week new-hire training followed by a two week on-the-job training. Employment is contingent upon your successful completion of each portion of the training program." (Id.)

Since at least 2001, DIRECTV has conducted an orientation program for new hires before they begin performing any employment duties. (Decker Aff., ¶¶ 3, 14, Ex. E). The orientation program always starts on a Monday and usually includes about 20 employees, although that number can fluctuate based on the company's hiring needs. Id. at ¶ 3. DIRECTV's orientation program (referred to as 'on-boarding' its employees) is conducted by Human Resources personnel employed at the BCCC. Id. In 2004, there were three Human Resources staff members who regularly conducted these new hire orientations, two of whom were Melanie Decker and Diane Robertson. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 5; Robertson Aff., ¶¶ 2-3, Dkt. 17).

When newly hired employees arrive for orientation, they are handed a folder of orientation information with their name, along with a manila envelope inside the folder. The folder contains information about employment with DIRECTV as well as forms that must be completed and returned before the end of orientation. (Decker Aff., ¶ 6; Robertson Aff., ¶ 6). One of the first segments of orientation involves a discussion of the various forms that each new employee is required to complete and return. Human Resources personnel conducting the orientation explain DIRECTV's policies through a Powerpoint presentation. (Decker Aff., ¶¶ 5-8; Robertson Aff. ¶¶ 5-8). Though they have changed some, orientations have been conducted in this manner since 2004. (Decker Aff., ¶ 6, Robertson Aff., ¶ 6).

One of the forms described during this process is DIRECTV's Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims ("Arbitration Agreement") which new employees are required to sign and return. (Decker Aff., ¶ 6, Ex. F; Robertson Aff., ¶ 5). DIRECTV has required its employees to enter into the Arbitration Agreement since 1993. (Decker Aff. ¶¶ 4, 14, Ex. E; Robertson Aff., 4).

Employees attending the orientations are instructed to place the completed forms, including the Arbitration Agreement, in the manila envelopes which are returned to Human Resources. The contents of the envelopes are then audited to determine that all of the required forms have been properly signed and returned. As part of this process, a New Hire File Checklist is completed. Items that are missing are noted and Human Resources follows up with the employee. A copy of the checklist, along with the forms, are placed in the employee's personnel file. (Decker Aff. ¶¶ 6, 7, 9, 10; Robertson Aff., ¶¶ 6, 7, 9, 10).

The Arbitration Agreement that was distributed at the October 18, 2004 new hire orientation, states:

Disputes which shall be submitted to binding arbitration for final resolution include: all claims or controversies, past, present, or future, except claims identified in the Arbitration Procedure under the heading "Claims Not Covered by the Agreement," arising out of an employee's employment or its termination, . . . that an employee may have against any of the following (1) the Company . . . [and] (3) the Company's parent subsidiary and affiliated entities . . . ("claims"). (Decker Aff., Ex. F).

The Arbitration Agreement states: "The parties' mutual promise to arbitrate differences, rather than litigate them before courts or other tribunals, provides adequate consideration for each other." (Id.) The Arbitration Agreement also provides that the employee "does not waive his/her right to file an administrative claim or complaint with the appropriate administrative agency, but does waive his/her right to file a civil action and a jury trial . . ." (Id.)

The Arbitration Agreement also expressly provides that "[a]rbitration under this Agreement may be compelled and enforced under the or according to the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. ...


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