United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
DARNELL AUSTIN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
DOORDASH, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
TALWANI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Darnell Austin brings claims under the Massachusetts Wage
Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, §§ 148, 148B; Mass.
Gen. Laws ch. 151, §§ 1, 7, arising from Defendant
DoorDash, Inc.'s alleged failure to pay Plaintiff minimum
wage and overtime. Defendant moved to dismiss and compel
arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act
(“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 3, 4. Mot. to
Dismiss and Compel Arbitration [#5]. For the following
reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Compel
Arbitration [#5] is ALLOWED.
is a food delivery service that provides services throughout
the country via an on-demand dispatch system. Compl. at
¶ 5. Customers may request food delivery by using
Defendant's mobile application or website. Id.
After a customer logs in and places a food order, the order
is transmitted electronically to the restaurant and to
Defendant's drivers, who may choose to deliver the order.
Mem. in Supp. Def.'s Mot. to Compel Arbitration
(“Def.'s Mem.”), Decl. of Stanley Tang
(“Tang Decl.”) 1 [#6-1]. If a driver agrees to
deliver the order, the driver must pick up the food and
transport it to the customer. Id. at 2.
has worked for Defendant as a driver since October 2016.
Compl. at ¶ 3. In order to do so, Plaintiff logged onto
the mobile application and accepted an agreement that states,
in relevant part:
The Agreement (“Agreement”) is made and entered
into by and between you, the undersigned contractor
(“CONTRACTOR”) . . . and DoorDash, Inc.
(“DOORDASH” or “COMPANY”). This
Agreement will become effective on the date it is accepted
regardless of whether you are eligible to, or ever do,
perform any Contracted Services.
Decl., Exh. B (“Agreement”) 9 [#6-1]. On the same
screen as the Agreement, the mobile application also
presented a Mutual Arbitration Provision, which states in
CONTRACTOR and DOORDASH mutually agree to resolve any
justiciable disputes between them exclusively through final
and binding arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit in court.
This arbitration agreement is governed by the Federal
Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16)
("FAA") and shall apply to any and all claims
arising out of or relating to this Agreement[.]
Id. at 11.
alleges that drivers are paid a delivery fee for each
delivery plus any tips they may receive from customers.
Compl. at ¶ 13. However, drivers must pay for their own
expenses, including expenses for their vehicle, gas,
smartphone, and data plan. Id. at ¶ 14.
Plaintiff alleges that during the week of May 29, 2017, his
wages fell below Massachusetts' minimum wage of $11.00
per hour, after accounting for expenses he incurred.
Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff filed the instant case.
Defendant moved to dismiss and compel arbitration, citing the
Mutual Arbitration Provision.
outset of this litigation, the parties presented a number of
issues of law that have since been resolved by decisions of
the Supreme Court. Those issues included Plaintiff's
contention that the Mutual Arbitration Provision's class
and collective action waiver language violated the National
Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), see Epic
Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S.Ct. 1612, 1632 (2018)
(holding that class action waivers do not violate the NLRA);
and Defendant's argument that an arbitrator, not the
court, must resolve the initial question of arbitrability.
See New Prime, Inc. v. Oliveira, 139 S.Ct. 532, 576
(2019) (holding that a court, not an arbitrator, should
determine the applicability of the FAA). The remaining
issue for the court to resolve is whether the Agreement here
is exempt from the FAA's coverage.
Federal Arbitration Act requires courts to enforce private
arbitration agreements.” New Prime, 139 S.Ct.
at 536. “While a court's authority under the
Arbitration Act to compel arbitration may be considerable, it
isn't unconditional.” Id. at 537. Section
1 of the FAA provides that the statute “shall not apply
to ‘contracts of employment of seamen, railroad
employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign
or interstate commerce.'” Circuit City Stores,
Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 112 (2001) (quoting 9
U.S.C. § 1). Plaintiff argues that he falls within the
FAA's exclusion for “any other class of workers
engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” (the
“residual clause”), and therefore the Agreement
is exempt from the FAA. Defendant argues that Plaintiff is
not “engaged in foreign or interstate commerce”
and thus the FAA applies to the contract and the court must
enforce the arbitration provision in accordance with the FAA.
Circuit City, the Supreme Court considered whether
all employment contracts were excluded from the FAA's
coverage by the residual clause in Section 1 or just those of
transportation workers. The Court concluded that the residual
clause “should be read to give effect to the terms
‘seamen' and ‘railroad employees,' and
should itself be controlled and defined by reference to the
enumerated categories of workers which are recited just
before it.” Id. at 115. Further, the Court
rejected the argument that the term “engaged in foreign
or interstate commerce” served to expand the category
of excluded workers to the “outer limits” of