United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
Herman Gomez brings this action against PDS Tech, Inc.
(“PDS”), Aviall Services, Inc.
(“Aviall”) and John Vogt (collectively
“Defendants”), alleging violations of the New
Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act
(“CEPA”), in connection with his purported
unlawful retaliatory discharge from employment. This matter
comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to compel
arbitration and dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (the
“Complaint”) pursuant to the Federal Arbitration
Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq. There was no oral
argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth
below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
is a New Jersey resident and former employee of Defendants.
Notice of Removal, Ex. A, Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1-1
[hereinafter “Compl.”]. Defendant PDS is a
staffing agency that conducts business in New Jersey.
Id. ¶¶ 2, 7. Defendant Aviall is a
corporation with a place of business in Parsippany, New
Jersey. Id. ¶ 3. Defendant Vogt is an employee
of Aviall. Id. ¶¶ 4, 9.
April 2017, PDS contacted Plaintiff and asked if he was
interested in a position as an assembly technician with its
client Aviall. Id. ¶¶ 6-8. Plaintiff
responded affirmatively and PDS submitted his resume to
Aviall, who subsequently interviewed him and hired him on the
spot. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10-11. Plaintiff began
working at Aviall later that month. Id. ¶ 12.
Two days after he started, Plaintiff complained to Vogt about
various issues that he felt created an unlawful safety
violation in the workplace. Id. ¶¶ 16-19.
Plaintiff also informed PDS of his concerns. Id.
¶ 26. Approximately a week thereafter, PDS advised
Plaintiff that Aviall had terminated his employment.
Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff filed the instant suit in
New Jersey Superior Court, which Defendants subsequently
removed to this Court in December 2017. Id.; Notice
of Removal, ECF No. 1.
now move to dismiss the Complaint and compel arbitration.
Mem. of Law in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. (“Defs.'
Mem.”) 1, ECF No. 12-1. Defendants argue first that
federal law governs the arbitration clause in the employment
agreement (the “Agreement”) Plaintiff entered
into with PDS and that the Agreement covers Plaintiff's
CEPA claims. See id. at 2-6. Defendants next argue
that the Agreement covers Plaintiff's claims against
Aviall and Vogt because they are intended third-party
beneficiaries to the Agreement despite the fact that they are
non-signatories. See id. at 9-10.
opposes, arguing first that the Agreement is unenforceable
because the general waiver of employment-related claims found
in the arbitration clause is not a clear and unambiguous
waiver of Plaintiff's CEPA claims. See
Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot.
(“Pl.'s Opp'n”) 5-6, ECF No. 15.
Plaintiff further argues that the clause is unenforceable
because it does not establish the arbitration forum.
Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff finally submits that the
arbitration clause lacks specific reference to CEPA, further
rendering it unenforceable. Id. at 7-8.
their reply brief, Defendants respond that the FAA provides
for an arbitration forum when contractual language is silent
thereto. Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Their Mot.
(“Defs.' Reply”) 1-4, ECF No. 16. Defendants
further argue that the arbitration clause sufficiently
identifies the statutory claims covered by the Agreement.
Id. at 5-8. Defendants submit that Plaintiff's
CEPA claims fall within the scope of the Agreement.
Id. at 8-10. Finally, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff concedes that Aviall and Vogt are third-party
beneficiaries to the Agreement. Id. at 10-11.
“creates a body of federal substantive law establishing
and governing the duty to honor agreements to arbitrate
disputes” and expresses “a strong federal policy
in favor of resolving disputes through arbitration.”
See Century Indem. Co. v. Certain Underwriters at
Lloyd's, London, 584 F.3d 513, 522 (3d Cir. 2009).
“Before compelling a party to arbitrate pursuant to the
FAA, a court must determine that (1) there is an agreement to
arbitrate and (2) the dispute at issue falls within the scope
of that agreement.” Id. at 523. “To
determine whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate,
[courts] apply ‘ordinary state-law principles that
govern the formation of contracts.'” Id.
at 524 (quoting First Options of Chi., Inc. v.
Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995)). “[O]nce a court
has found that there is a valid agreement to arbitrate, . . .
the determination of whether a particular dispute is within
the class of those disputes governed by the arbitration
clause . . . is a matter of federal law.” See
id. (quotation omitted). In making such a determination,
“‘there is a presumption of arbitrability[:] an
order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be
denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the
arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation
that covers the asserted dispute.'” Id.
(quoting AT&T Techs., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of
Am., 475 U.S. 643, 650 (1986)).
in the Third Circuit apply two different standards when
considering a motion to compel arbitration. “[W]hen it
is apparent, based on ‘the face of a complaint, and
documents relied upon in the complaint, ' that certain of
a party's claims ‘are subject to an enforceable
arbitration clause, a motion to compel arbitration should be
considered under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard without
discovery's delay.'” Guidotti v. Legal
Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764, 776 (3d
Cir. 2013) (quoting Somerset Consulting, LLC v. United
Capital Lenders, LLC, 832 F.Supp.2d 474, 482 (E.D. Pa.
2011)). “But if the complaint and its supporting
documents are unclear regarding the agreement to arbitrate,
or if the plaintiff has responded to a motion to compel
arbitration with additional facts sufficient to place the
agreement to arbitrate in issue, then ‘the parties
should be entitled to discovery on the question of
arbitrability before a court entertains further briefing on
[the] question.” Id. (quoting same). Under
such circumstances, courts apply a summary judgment standard.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving
party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been
stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750
(3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint
as true and view them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501
(1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage
Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).
has not responded with additional facts that place the
agreement to arbitrate in issue and the Court, therefore,
applies the Rule 12(b)(6) standard to Defendants' motion.
The Agreement is unquestionably subject to federal law by
virtue of the fact that Defendant PDS is a Washington
corporation with business operations in many states, which
Plaintiff does not contest. See Decl. of J. Surely
(“Surely Decl.”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 12-2. “A
nexus to interstate commerce is found when citizens of
different states engage in performance of contractual
obligations in one of those states because such a contract
necessitates interstate travel of both personnel and
payments.” Alfa ...