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Austin v. Doordash, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 30, 2019

DARNELL AUSTIN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
DOORDASH, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          INDIRA TALWANI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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.

         I. Factual Background

         Defendant 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         Tang 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 relevant part:

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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         II. Analysis

         At the 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).[1] The remaining issue for the court to resolve is whether the Agreement here is exempt from the FAA's coverage.

         “The 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.

         In 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 Congressional ...


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