Romero v. Watkins & Shepard Trucking, Inc., No. 20-55768 (9th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Romero, a truck driver employed by Watkins, an interstate trucking business, made deliveries only to retail stores in California. To complete paperwork and training, Romero periodically logged in to an online portal that required a unique employee identification number and password. Romero’s unique user account completed a set of “Associate Acknowledgements,” through which he clicked “I Agree,” signifying that he read and agreed to the Arbitration Policy, a stand-alone agreement that purports to waive any right to bring or participate in a class action; it states that the agreement is “governed by the Federal Arbitration Act,” and purports to waive "any provision of the FAA which would otherwise exclude [the agreement] from its coverage.” However, if "this [agreement] and/or its Waiver Provisions are not subject to and governed by the FAA, then the laws of the State of Nevada . . . will be the applicable state law.” The Arbitration Policy was not a condition of employment. Romero did not opt-out. In August 2019, Watkins announced it would cease operations. Romero and other employees were laid off.
Romero filed a putative class action under the California and federal WARN Acts, 29 U.S.C. 2101, which require advance notice to employees before being laid off. The district court granted a motion to compel arbitration. The NInth Circuit affirmed, while noting that the Federal FAA exemption of employment contracts for transportation workers applies and cannot be waived by private contract.
Court Description: Arbitration. In a case in which Alejandro Romero filed a putative class action suit claiming Watkins & Shepard Trucking did not give him and other ex-employees advance notice of termination as the federal and California WARN acts require, and in which the district court granted Watkins’s motion to compel individual arbitration of Romero’s claims, the panel affirmed the district court’s ruling that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not apply to a stand-alone binding arbitration agreement in which Romero waived his right to bring a class action. The panel held that the district court correctly concluded that Romero, a truck driver who did not himself cross state lines but delivered goods that had once crossed state lines, fell within FAA § 1’s exemption for transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce. The panel held that the district court also correctly ruled that the exemption cannot be waived by private contract. * The Honorable D. Michael Fisher, United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, sitting by designation. ROMERO V. WATKINS & SHEPARD TRUCKING 3 The panel affirmed on the remainder of issues in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition.